Christmas might be over for another year, but the Department of Conservation is about to spend the next month on a major hunt for mistletoe in Rotorua.

Some of Rotorua's lakeside settlements are a stronghold for the threatened green mistletoe and the major survey will be the first since 2001 aimed at finding out how big the mistletoe population is - as well as letting landowners know what a special species they have in their backyard.

Ranger Paul Cashmore said a ranger would be going around homes in the lakes areas looking for the plants and educating landowners.

Mr Cashmore said the green mistletoe was "pretty much extinct" in parts of New Zealand and the population around Rotorua's lakes was quite important to the survival.


"The main thing is getting an assessment of where it is at, if it has increased or decreased and landowner awareness."

Mr Cashmore said while people often thought of kiwi when they thought of a rare species, they weren't actually aware there were a whole pile of rare native plants and many weren't aware they were in their backyard.

"Most people are quite surprised, quite appreciative that we have pointed it out. Most are pleased to know they have something special growing in their garden. A lot have never know what is is, it's not a plant you buy at at garden centre."

He said because many of the sites where mistletoe was growing were on private land, landowners had an important part to play in making sure it lived on.

"The future of the species really rests with all the private landowners. It's not something the Department of Conservation can do alone."

Mr Cashmore said the green mistletoe was mainly found at Tarawera, Okareka, Rotoiti and parts of Rotoehu.

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About mistletoe:

* Survey of the threatened green mistletoe species or pirita (Ileostylus micranthus and Tupeia antarctica)

* New Zealand mistletoe species are threatened.

* Possums are a major threat.

* People asked not to pick mistletoe plants as New Zealand species can take many years to replace lost branches.