Dracophyllum traversii (Mountain neinei)
Species: D. traversii
Scientific name: Dracophyllum traversii
Common name: Mountain neinei, Large neinei, Pineapple tree, Neinei.
Dracophyllum traversii is mainly a South Island dicotyledonous species, occurring in montane and subalpine heath forest and scrub above 750 m from Northwest Nelson to the central Southern Alps. It is also found on Mt Hikurangi in the Raukumara Range, in the Coromandal Range, and in scattered western localities between the King Country and Whangarei. It is growing at Pukeiti a very large public garden on the flanks of Mount Taranaki. It often dominates localised patches of forest, sometimes forming extensive stands along ridge crests.
Dracophyllum traversii is the longest living of our indigenous small trees up to 10 m tall, with individuals recorded at between 500 and 600 years old.
The sparsely branched tree usually has a gnarled and spreading habit, with peeling bark on the trunk, and smooth, dark brown to almost black branches. The leaf colour varies between green to purplish red and are a similar length to spiderwood, but a little wider with smooth margins. When the leaves fall they turn red-brown and persist for a long time on the forest floor. Their slow decay produces deep, slippery litter layers that prevent seedling regeneration. The long, stiff, gleaming leaves are used by Maori weavers for decorative features, such as tags on cloaks.
Flowering is sporadic but when an individual tree can produce 750,000 1 mm long seeds. These tiny lightweight seeds are easily dispersed by wind. Despite this seed output, seedlings are rare, but this paucity is compensated for by the longevity of established plants.
Photographed North West Nelson
Young plants photographed at Otari Native Botanic Garden and Wilton's Bush Reserve. Wellington.