It is a small block of bushland tucked away at the end of Totara St in Levin, bordering an industrial area, a paddock or two and the Ranfurly retirement home, but Prouse Bush is a hidden gem.
Its windy loop track passes over sprawling, gnarly tree roots, its paths are covered with decaying leaves, while the surrounding landscape is undergoing regeneration.
There is plenty of natural and storm debris all over the bush, but recently a few large karaka trees, which have been spreading themselves around that bush through seed for a while, have been given the chop.
Prouse Bush is one of the last remnants of native bush left within the township of Levin. The original bush was once dominated by titoki (Alectryon excelsus), Tawa (Beilschmiedia tawa) and Totara (Podocarpus totara). However, over time and in the absence of these large conifers, the introduction of other species and some garden escapees have changed the natural diversity in the bush and given karaka an opportunity to flourish.
The bush is also home to the native snail, Powelliphanta traversi. Regrettably, the bush floor is also littered with Wandering Willie Weed (Tradescantia fluminensis).
A few large karaka (Corynocarpus laevigatus) have seeded extensively through the site and unless checked, they will be the future dominant species, restricting the regeneration of the original bush species, so the council decided to give regeneration a bit of a tree-up, so to speak, by removing a few karaka.
Ann Clark, parks and property lead for Horowhenua District Council, said there are many mid-size karaka in Prouse Bush, suggesting that when this area was dominated by podocarp conifers, karaka didn't have a significant presence or weren't there at all.
"The reserve management plan identifies as one of the actions to preserve Prouse Bush for future generations, a regeneration project to reintroduce the original tree species. As part of this project we are removing karaka seedlings on the forest floor and the large fruiting trees that are perpetuating the problem.
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"The removal of trees such as these would normally seem counter-productive in any revegetation project, however in this case it is essential to thwart the dominance of a single species that threatens to derail the regeneration project.
"The remaining karaka trees that haven't reached this fruiting stage are left to provide cover, and we are already seeing positive regeneration signs following this approach, with a large number of remnant tree seedlings naturally generating throughout the bush," Clark said.
Prouse Bush was gifted to the people of Levin in 1951 by Christina Prouse, a descendant of an early pioneering sawmilling family.
It was her intention that the reserve be maintained and managed by the council in association with the Levin Native Flora Club and a representative of her family.
Since the council has been managing Prouse Bush Reserve, it has carried out maintenance including rubbish clearance, control of pest plants and track upkeep. It is now looking for ways to promote the natural regeneration of the bush.