Travis Wetland Monthly Newsletter June 2024

Travis Wetland Trust

All previous newsletters can be found here.

Work Day Reminder, June 15 2024

Travis Wetland location map

The next monthly work day will be from 9.00am – noon this coming Saturday.

This month we’ll be releasing plants from weeds somewhere around the wetland and probably making a start on the planting season.

If you arrive late there will be a notice on the Education Centre door explaining where we have gone and a phone number for if you need more guidance to our location.

All tools provided. Gumboots are recommended, but if you don’t have any we have pairs for loan. Please bring your own gloves if you can, but we have some of them for loan too.

If the weather on the work day is poor and we decide to cancel then an email will be sent by 8am on Saturday morning. So if you think the conditions are marginal, please check your emails.

If you’re reading this on the website and are not on the email list then you can add yourself to it through the form at the foot of the home page. If you change your mind there’s an unsubscribe link in each newsletter.

Latest News

Report on Last Month’s Work Day, 18 May

Travis Wetland May work day

It was a beautifully clear and cold morning for the May work day. We filed all the way down to the far edge of the Southern Woods, adjacent to Angela Stream and just across the water from Travis Rd. We were working in the oldest plantings from nearly 20 years ago and it really felt like being in a forest! Many of the trees were way above our heads and on the forest floor there was lots of natural regeneration. We had a few things to plant and then moved on to releasing trees from the weeds and summer Convolvulus infestation. A few patches of blackberry were also cut and pasted to prevent their spread.

We started out well rugged-up for the chilly morning, but as we worked the layers came off. A latecomer, who was also new to Travis Wetland, had to be guided to the work location by phone calls – which turned out to be a comedy of poor descriptions and misunderstandings. Note to self: in future text a link to our location on Google maps.

Angela Stream
Angela Stream

When it came time to knock off for morning tea we returned by another route through the forest and across the muddy paddock. That gave us a good idea of how extensive the Southern Woods now are and how much progress has been made since May 2006 when the project (formally called the Tōtara-Mataī Forest) was started. Thanks to all those who came along for the work day.

Article and images: Dave Evans

Kōwhai: New Zealand’s Golden Glory

Kōwhai flower

As we slip into winter our minds wander off to spring and the first blooms of the new season. When thinking about spring flowers one of the first that comes to my mind is the Kōwhai. These cheerful trees, with their vibrant yellow blooms, are a beloved part of the Kiwi landscape. But there’s more to Kōwhai than meets the eye! Let’s delve into the fascinating world of this genus, Sophora.

Sophora is a surprisingly diverse group, with around 45 species scattered across the globe. You’ll find them in places as far-flung as southeast Europe, Asia, the Pacific Islands, and even the Americas. However, New Zealand boasts a unique claim to fame, eight endemic species of Kōwhai call this island nation home.

These eight Kōwhai species are all small to medium sized trees, belonging to the pea (Fabaceae) family. They typically favour sunny spots, often gracing stream banks and forest fringes, or adding a splash of color to lowlands and mountain meadows. Interestingly, some Kōwhai species have a bit of a rebellious streak. They seem to enjoy defying the usual “play by the rules” approach to distribution. For example, Sophora fulvida prefers rocky outcrops in the Northland to Waikato regions, while Sophora longicarinata clings to life on marble and lime outcrops in the Nelson / Marlborough regions.

But what truly unites the Kōwhai whānau is their stunning display of yellow flowers. Every year, from late winter to early spring Kōwhai trees erupt in a vibrant display. These beautiful blooms aren’t just a feast for the eyes; they also play a vital role in the ecosystem, attracting a flurry of pollinating insects like bees and bellbirds.

Choosing your favorite Kōwhai species can be a delightful challenge. Sophora microphylla, with its bright yellow flowers and cascading seed pods, is perhaps the most widespread. Then there’s the Sophora prostrata, a champion of toughness. This low-growing shrub boasts a unique charm with its zig-zagging branches and a surprising scarcity of leaves. But don’t be fooled by its understated appearance! Come spring, Sophora prostrata produces a scattering of beautiful orange-yellow flowers, often nestled amongst the foliage for a delightful surprise. Sophora microphylla is the main species you will see at Travis and if you’re looking for Sophora prostrata look no further than the door to the education center.

Kōwhai hold a special place in Maori culture (the word “kōwhai” itself means yellow), but it’s important to remember that all parts of the plant are considered poisonous. So, admire their beauty from afar, and leave the appreciation to the native insects and your sense of sight!

Kōwhai moth

Daylight beauty: The Kōwhai moth

Sharing the Kōwhai’s love for the spotlight is the aptly named Kōwhai moth (Uresiphita maorialis). This native New Zealand moth, active during the day, is a familiar sight fluttering around Kōwhai trees during spring and summer. The caterpillar stage is the real Kōwhai connoisseur. Green with black spots, it munches happily on Kōwhai leaves, sometimes spinning a silken haven amongst the foliage.

Look round the window frames beside the Ed Centre door, the odds are good you will find a cocoon or in summer the caterpillar. While the moth’s appetite can occasionally lead to some defoliation, the Kōwhai tree usually bounces back without any problems. In a way, the Kōwhai moth is a tiny ambassador, helping to spread Kōwhai pollen as it flits from flower to flower. So, the next time you see a Kōwhai in bloom, keep an eye out for this little golden diner!

Kōwhai aren’t just beautiful; they’re a vital part of New Zealand’s ecological tapestry. From providing food for pollinators to adding a splash of color to the landscape, these golden gems truly embody the spirit of spring. And alongside them flits the Kōwhai moth, a reminder of the intricate dance between plants and the creatures that depend on them.

Kōwhai moth caterpillar

Article and images: Grahame



The Travis Wetland bumper sticker, produced several years ago by Trust board member Phil Teague, introduced me to the concept of rewilding. Since then I have heard of it with increasing frequency and now I appreciate that rewilding is what we are doing at Travis. This morning I read an article on The Spinoff by author Steve Mushin about ultrawilding and his book Ultrawild: An Audacious Plan to Rewild Every City On Earth, which is on the shortlist for this year’s New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.

He proposes the word ultrawilding to describe taking rewilding to the next level. Here’s an excerpt:

My book Ultrawild is a collection of future technologies for ultrawilding cities, based on real engineering possibilities. Like 3D printed birds which create hollows and perches before fledgling trees are large enough to offer homes. Or water-filtering sewer submarines which help us daylight city rivers. It’s a science-comedy to kickstart creative thinking. But rewilding is deadly serious business.

Read the inspirational article on The Spinoff here.

Article: Dave Evans

Stormwater Protection

Protect Our Waterways

For the past month ECan has been running a stormwater campaign across social media, Met Service, radio, and web, and is primarily targeted at Canterbury’s urban centres (Christchurch, Rangiora, Kaiapoi, Timaru, Ashburton).

They are asking everyone in Canterbury to do their bit to make our waterways cleaner, healthier, and safer. When it rains or we wash stuff outside, the things we leave behind end up in our rivers, streams, sea and wetlands. Contaminants can travel, untreated, through the stormwater system, making the water in our rivers and sea unsafe for recreation and polluting the habitat of plants, fish and wildlife.

Stormwater hero trailer

The ECan website gives great tips for protecting our waterways by taking care over what reaches them through stormwater drains.

There’s also information on the Stormwater Superhero trailer, which is designed to provide education about stormwater health and actions you can take to protect it. It opens to form 3D model games, and includes a touch screen TV with multichoice educational games and an educational movie about stormwater. It’s a great way to provide hands-on learning about freshwater health and can be booked for your community group or education facility through the Christchurch Envirohub.

Images from Grahame

Pīwakawaka, fantail
Pīwakawaka, fantail
Rakiraki, Mallard duck
Rakiraki, Mallard duck
Kōurarini, goldfinch
Kōurarini, juvenile goldfinch