Archives For wilding pines

While many New Zealanders spent Easter weekend hunting for Easter eggs, a crew of keen volunteers on horseback were out in their big back yard searching for wilding pines.

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The pine tree—decorated with luxe swathes of red, green and gold tinsel, bells, beads and baubles, sweetly scenting the house—is one of my favourite things about Christmas.

My Christmas tree.

Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree, Much pleasure do you bring me!

For me, it’s the role of the pine tree during the festive season that makes me love it.

Another good (if not quite so romantic) reason to love the pine is its contribution to our economy—as a stalwart of our forestry industry.

Mangakino, Waikato, NZ. Photo: Sarah Macmillan (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Timber country. Photo: Sarah Macmillan

And our appreciation of pine is reciprocated—they flourish in the favourable conditions New Zealand provides for them.

So, while the mutual benefits of the relationship are undeniable, its not all roses (or should I say pine cones?) Because pines have, in fact, become a nuisance in many parts of the country, springing up uninvited, like that snotty nosed kid from down the street (that’s just poetic licence of course—the kids in my neighbourhood are all, without exception, delightful creatures).

These gatecrashers are called wilding pines. They compete for space with our native trees and plants, but provide none of the advantages, such as berries and nectar, to encourage bird life and insects. Their pine needles form a carpet, discouraging regeneration of native plant species. Aesthetically, wilding pines change our landscape.

The rapid invasion of Pinus nigra into well grazed highcountry pasture. Google Earth shows this area almost completely free of pines in 2006.

Rapid invasion: Google Earth shows this area of highcountry pasture almost completely free of pines in 2006. Photo: Jon Sullivan

DOC is responsible for wilding tree infestations on public conservation land but are by no means the only ones taking action.

Manu, Rachel, and Jenny deal to a wilding pine in the Tekapo Scientific Reserve. Photo: Jon Sullivan (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Students dealing to a wilding pine in the Tekapo Scientific Reserve.
Photo: Jon Sullivan

Some trampers and hunters carry little folding saws to cut down small wilding pines. If you do this, it’s important to cut down the whole tree stump and not leave any branches or green needles behind (so I’m told—I really don’t have personal experience or expertise on this!). Extremely small seedlings can be pulled out by hand which is very effective as there is no risk of re-growth.

The saying, “a weed is just plant in the wrong place” springs to mind as I wrap up this ode to the darker side of my beloved Christmas tree.

Our native landscapes, species and ecosystems are too precious to give up to the pine tree. The corner of my lounge in December, on the other hand, is quite simply the perfect place.