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Watch NZH Local Focus: Volunteers protect rare native Dactylanthus plant

By Hunter Calder

Passionate volunteers are devoting their time to pollinate the rare native Dactylanthus taylorii, near the top of Mt Pirongia

Māori know them as Pua O Te Reinga. They're also known as the Wood Rose - an unusual underground plant that's only found on the forest floor in New Zealand.

The indigenous plant has been in decline over the past few years due to three main things, "the loss of its main pollinator the short-tailed-bat, humans - for having dug it up and possums for browsing the floors and digging up the tubers", according to the Department of Conservation's biodiversity superviser, Thomas Emmitt.

"Short tailed bats are absolutely vital, nothing else does a good as job as the Short Tailed Bat. By hand pollinating, we can produce seed, rats and mice also produce a small amount of seed (by spreading nectar from the male to female plants), but instead of getting a thousand seeds per seed head you might get 50 seeds per seed head," Mr Emmitt says.

For the last year, 25 dedicated volunteers who form the Pirongia Te Aroaro o Kahu Restoration Society have been working on the pollination project.

And now the hard work is starting to pay off.

On their most recent trip up Mt Pirongia volunteer Dactylanthus enthusiast Clare St Pierre says there were at least 10 new plants.

"It's pretty amazing when you do find the small flowers because you get an appreciation on just how tenuous their hold is on survival and you really want them to carry on."

Many of the plants are protected by cages to stop possums and other pests destroying the fragile species.

The volunteers are hoping to recruit more passionate members to their team to monitor and pollinate Dactylanthus, and in September they're hoping to re-establish Dactylanthus at the base of the mountain, as currently it's only found at higher altitudes.

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- NZ Herald

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