Park helping preserve rare rhodos

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On the job...Overseeing the planting of rare rhododendrons at Gore's Bannerman Park are Gore District Council parks and recreation manager Keith McRobie (left) Taranaki Regional Council rhododendron collections officer Andrew Brooker and New Zealand Rhododendron Association secretary Karyn Fitzgerald. PHOTO: MICHAEL CURREEN.

Now home to some of the rarest species of rhododendrons in the world, Gore’s Bannerman Park is playing an important role in conservation.

Forty species ranging from small shrubs to trees were planted there last Thursday as part of a programme to safeguard the Pukeiti Rhododendron Trust’s world-renowned collection in Taranaki.

Among those planted, two species were critically endangered, Taranaki Regional Council rhododendron collections officer Andrew Brooker said at the planting.

“That means there’s less than 10 in their natural habitat.

“Rhododendron is one of the most endangered plant genuses in the world .. What we’re doing in partnership with the Gore District Council is the ones that like cold climates and a lack of humidity in the summer, we are planting down here.”

Council parks and recreation manager Keith McRobie said it was a “feather in the cap” for the council Bannerman Park had been chosen as a location for the trust’s rare plants.

It was one of only three sites chosen in the South Island.

The park’s microclimate was ideal for rhododendrons.

“They like a temperate, cool climate with good moisture levels.

“Climate change and the loss of natural plant territory in China and Nepal mean it’s increasingly important to have endangered plant species thriving in different locations.”

It could also bring more tourists to Gore, Mr McRobie said.

“Garden tourism is a thriving niche market. I wouldn’t be surprised to see our gardens attracting more and more visitors to the area.”

The council would plant 22 additional species from Blue Mountain Nurseries to complement the trust’s collection.

The nursery propagated many of the plants from seeds sourced during trips to China and the Himalayan region.

New Zealand Rhododendron Association secretary Karyn Fitzgerald, of Te Kuiti, came down to oversee the planting.

She said it was very significant for ensuring the survival of rhododendron species.

“If anything happens, Andrew can get cuttings or propagation material from here.”

She looked forward to returning to Gore in November, when the association would be holding its annual conference in the town.