White Pine Bush Scenic reserve, established in 1923, was one of Hawke’s Bay’s first scenic reserves. This 19 hectare patch of native bush is a remnant of the past when great forests covered the landscape. Land clearing and farm development have devastated Hawke’s Bay’s forests. Valuable remnants like this reserve are all that remain.
Within this forest, giant kahikatea (white pines), some as old as 500 years ave given the reserve its name.
Past and Present
The reserve was originally part of the 10,647 hectare Maori owned Purahotangahia block. This was purchased by the Crown in 1915 and later much of it was subdivided for farming and forestry. Establishment of White Pine Bush Scenic Reserve in 1923 meant this piece of forest would be protected forever. The exotic elms, robinina and poplar trees around the car Park today were planted in the 1950s when an employee of the Hawke’s Bay Soil Conservation Council was based in a roadman’s hut at White Pine.
White Pine Bush – a conifer broadleaf forest….
New Zealand has two main forest types, beech and conifer-broadleaf. Both types are evergreen. White Pine Bush belongs to the conifer broadleaf type. There are quite dense forests with understories of small trees, shrubs and ferns. Mosses, lianes (vines) and epiphytes (perching plants) are plentiful. Large conifers usually dominate the forest. Here, the large conifers are called podocarps. This makes White Pine Bush a coastal, lowland podocarp broadleaf forest sub type. Species in this forest prefer a moist, warm, sheltered environment. With less than 3 percent of this forest type left in Hawke’s Bay, White Pine Bush is a vital remnant. Together with the other reserves in the area, it creates a group of ‘islands’ for our bird life and other fauna.
The podocarp family
Podocarps are conifers. They do not have flowers like as we know them, but produce cones – often quite small. Most are forest trees that grow large kahikatea, rimi, matai, totara and miro.
However, some are low sprawling shrubs, a few of which are found in New Zealand. Podocarps occur mainly in the Southern Hemisphere and there are over 100 known species. The podocarp family is ancient. They firs
t appeared at least 100 million years ago.
The kahikatea (white pine) is our tallest native tree. It is found throughout New Zealand and often in swampy areas. The leaves change form as the tree grows. Male cones and female ovules form on the tips of the branchlets but on separate trees. A male tree has a faint orange tinge when the cones are
mature and female receptacles turn red when ripe.
In past years kahikatea wood was used to make spears. Small pieces were also used as torches for night fishing trips. Perhaps the most well known use however was for butter boxes, because the wood did not taint the butter.