Travis Wetland Monthly Newsletter May 2024

Travis Wetland Trust

All previous newsletters can be found here.

Work Day Reminder, May 18 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 the rapid summer growth somewhere around the wetland, maybe even planting a few specimens.

If you arrive late there will be a notice on the Education Centre door explaining where we have gone.

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

Precious Daisies at Travis

Celmisia gracilenta

Travis Wetland is the home of some very special daisies of the Celmisia genus. First of all Daphne Banks and then more recently Eleanor Bissell (along with many others for shorter periods) have for 30 years spent several hours weekly caring for the daisies, along with some other precious plants. Two hundred years ago these daisies would have lived in wetlands all over Canterbury, but unmodified wetlands are now so rare that Travis is perhaps the only refuge for them. We are very fortunate that in the 1990s Colin Meurk spotted these special plants and championed their protection with long-term support from the CCC.

They are vulnerable to not only drainage and grazing, but also to competition from weeds and even other native species. They probably only survived the dairy farm days at Travis due to their location in an area resistant to drainage and grazing by cows. To ensure their survival the micro-habitats where they persist need to be constantly monitored and maintained.

The Travis species of Celmisia was identified many years ago by someone at Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research as Celmisia graminifolia. The recent publication of a new field guide to Celmisias by local plant ecologist Jane Gosden presented an opportunity to reconfirm the identity of “our” Celmisia. But when Eleanor consulted Jane’s new field guide she read that graminifolia is only found in Northland! Given that the Corybas orchid featured in last month’s newsletter was a new find for the South Island could the Travis Celmisia be an outlier of the Northland population? That sounded a bit unlikely so Eleanor consulted Jane and she suggested using the following words to describe the situation:

Celmisia gracilenta

The Celmisia plants at the Travis Wetlands are part of a group of Celmisia known as the “grassy leaved group”. This group is highly variable and may contain some as yet undescribed species. While traditionally the plants at Travis Wetland were called C. graminifolia we have chosen to follow the naming used by both A Guide to Celmisia in Aotearoa/New Zealand and New Zealand Plant Conservation Network. Therefore, the plants at Travis Wetland are currently known as C. gracilenta until further taxonomic work is done to untangle this confusing group of native daisies.

It’s nice to have a name for the daisy, but I don’t think we have heard the last word on the identification. I don’t suppose the daisies themselves will be too bothered that their name is not entirely settled and will continue growing under Eleanor’s tender care.

If your interest in Clemisias is piqued then here are the details of Jane’s fascinating field guide “Mountain Daisies – A guide to Celmisia in Aotearoa/New Zealand”, Jane Gosden, Manuka Press. You can read about Jane’s voyage to writing the guide in an article on the Federated Mountain Clubs blog site.

Article: Dave Evans, images: Grahame

The Intriguing Brown Teal: New Zealand’s Dabbling Dynamo

Meet pāteke the Brown teal (Anas chlorotis), a compact dabbling duck with a fascinating story. Once abundant throughout New Zealand, this interesting bird is now New Zealand’s rarest waterfowl species on the mainland.
Thankfully, the Brown teal’s story isn’t all doom and gloom. Conservation efforts are making a difference. With careful predator control and habitat restoration, these sprightly ducks are bouncing back in some areas.
Currently we have approx 2500 pāteke in the wild in NZ. There are 2 natural populations (Northland and Great Barrier) and 7 reintroduction sites. The reintroduction sites stretch from Arthur valley in Fiordland to Purerua in Northland.

© Simon Fordham / Naturepix, Brown teal, pateke
© Simon Fordham / Naturepix

So imagine the surprise when a visiting birder found one at Travis on May 2nd.
This bird has attracted the attention of local birders and has produced a mystery of its own.
It has a metal band on it’s right leg.
Keen birders have been trying to decode this band unfortunately the band as currently deciphered doesn’t quite fit with known bird bands.
So currently we don’t know where it’s visiting from.
The mystery continues.
The pāteke is of course most welcome to stay and makes a nice addition to the Travis waterbirds.

Travis was part of a trial introduction of pāteke back in 2007.
On May 16 2007 20 Brown teal were released at Travis.
Story and images are here.
It’s a link worth a look at just to see pics of trust members and rangers from 17 years ago.
The last time a pāteke from that release was seen was August 15 2013, 6 years after release.
During that time some birds paired up and at least one pair bred.

Brown teal, pateke
Brown teal, pāteke, amongst grey teal, tētē-moroiti

So how to find this pāteke ?
As mentioned earlier this omnivorous bird is nocturnal.
Because of this the earlier part or the latter part of the day are a better bet.
Look everywhere from the pond behind the info center round to the bird hide.
Have a look at these images and see how it looks with his Grey teal friends and a bit closer up.
Note the white eye ring.

Brown teal, pateke

For all information about Brown teal have a look at this website.

So now we have a new critter to keep our eyes peeled for on our wanderings around Travis.

Article and image (except as credited): Grahame

Burdock: From bothersome burrs to tasty treat?

Burdock seed heads
Burdock seed heads

Burdock, is a familiar sight in New Zealand. This tall, thistle-like plant with giant leaves isn’t exactly a garden favourite, thanks to its persistent burrs that love clinging to fur and clothing. But beneath the prickly exterior lies a surprising secret – burdock is actually edible!


While considered a weed here, burdock’s long taproot and young leaves are a popular vegetable in Japan and China. The root, with its earthy, slightly sweet flavour, is a delicious addition to stir-fries and stews.
It was also the inspiration for Georges de Mestral a Swiss engineer to to come up with Velcro in 1955.

Now, back to our burr-y business. There are two main burdock species in New Zealand: Arctium lappa (greater burdock) and A. minus (lesser burdock). Greater burdock is more common in the South Island, while the lesser burdock is scattered throughout both islands (except Westland).

Spotting a Burdock:

Imagine a dramatic celery plant gone rogue. Burdock is a biennial, meaning it spends its first year focusing on foliage and the second year on flowering. In the first year, keep an eye out for a rosette of massive, fuzzy, heart-shaped leaves that can easily reach 40cm across. Picture giant rhubarb leaves, but softer and greener. The undersides of these leaves are often a paler green or even slightly purple.

The second year brings the show-stopping flower stalks. These can shoot up to 2 metres tall, with branching stems topped by clusters of purple or white, thistle-like flowers. Once the flowers fade, be warned – here come the burrs! These spiky seed heads are what give burdock its notorious reputation. Each green burr is covered in tiny hooks, designed to hitch a ride on anything that brushes past, ensuring the seeds travel far and wide.


If you’re finding burdock sprouting up in your garden, don’t despair. While pesky, it’s not the most aggressive weed. Persistent hand-pulling before flowering helps control its spread. Remember, those burrs are the plant’s ticket to a free ride – removing flowers before they set seed can significantly reduce new burdock recruits.

Burdock can be found scattered at various sites around Travis, from track margins to hiding away in shady wet spots under trees.
We regard it as a pest plant and remove it when found.

So, next time you encounter burdock, see it as an opportunity! Embrace its wild ways, and maybe even give the root a try (after some thorough cleaning, of course). You might discover a new taste bud adventure!

Article and images: Grahame

City Nature Challenge 2024 Results

City Nature Challenge 2024 results

The City Nature Challenge 2024 was a great success in Ōtautahi. Over the 4-day weekend more than 20,000 observations were made, which makes it the biggest CNC for the city so far. Ōtautahi is ranked 8th in the Eurasia/Africa/Oceania group and ahead of Te Upoko o te Ika (Wellington)! The 20k observations included 2,308 distinct species and were made by 350 observers. The local results can be seen here. The total for Ōtautahi was bolstered by an astounding 3,436 observations of 720 species by Trust member Jon Sullivan. It must have been an exhausting weekend for him.

The Eurasia/Africa/Oceania group was headed by Graz, Austria with 43,093 observations and the North & South America group was won by La Paz, Bolivia with an incredible 166, 541 observations by 3,603 observers. Looking at those results I think some questionable tactics were used to maximise the number of observations.

Images from Grahame

Katydid on Nursery Web Spider Nest
Katydid on Nursery Web Spider Nest
Sunburst Lichen
Sunburst Lichen