The Nature Trail

The Nature Trail starts at the Tui Track which runs off the grass clearing, below the Pine Tree Carpark, below the tennis courts on Morton Way.

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Since the Nature Trail was first described in the 1980s, the bush has grown and changed. This is version four of the trail guide. The numbered signs draw attention to the plants identified – each has its own QR code.

On the left of the entry point is a large karo (Pittosporum crassifolium), which has greyish, leathery leaves and small dark red flowers in spring.

Pittosporum crassifolium, karo

To the right of the entrance a mature kowhai (Sophora microphylla) shades the picnic table.


You are surrounded by the most common tree fern in the park – the silver fern (Cyathea dealbata) – recognised by the silver stipes (stems) and silver underside of the fronds. It can grow to 10 metres and is one of New Zealand’s national emblems.

Cyathea dealbata, silver fern

Look up and across the stream and you will see an emergent rimu (Dacrydium cupressinum) with its characteristic graceful drooping leaves.

Dacrydium cupressinum, rimu
Dacrydium cupressinum, rimu


This grove of trees is māhoe, or whiteywood (Melicytus ramiflorus) – there are many around here. Note their white-patterned, sometimes mossy trunks, fine-toothed leaves and creamy scented flowers (early summer) which sprout directly from quite thick branches.

Melicytus ramiflorus, whitey wood, mahoe


Māpou, or red matipo, (Myrsine australis) has reddish stems, carrying small wavy leaves which have red blotches. Here, hounds tongue fern (Zealandia pustulata) uses whiteywood trunks to reach the light.

IMGP0028 Myrsine australis mapou
Myrsine australis, māpou


Tall, straight kahikatea — or white pine (Dacrycarpus dacrydioides) — has threadlike leaves. This species will eventually grow to 40 metres. On the other side of the track are young pigeonwood – porokaiwhiri (Hedycara arborea) — which have blackish stems and dark, glossy leaves.

kahikatea juvenile
Dacrycarpus dacrydioides, kahikatea


The tangle of snake-like vines is supplejack (Ripogonum scandens).

Ripogonum scandens, supplejack


The glossy fern is shining spleenwort (Asplenium oblongifolium). 

Asplenium oblongifolium, shining spleenwort


These small-leaved shrubs are the divaricating coprosma (Coprosma rhamnoides). On the opposite side of the track is prickly mingimingi (Leptecophylla juniperina subsp. juniperina). Notice a small grove of hangehange (Geniostoma ligustrifolium) – it is one of the more common native shrubs. Its thin, pale green leaves droop in summer heat.

Coprosma rhamnoides
Leptecophylla juniperina subsp. juniperina, prickly mingimingi
Geniostoma, hangehange
Geniostoma, hangehange


The small grasses (sedges) with grooved leaves are Carex dissita and C. lambertiana (distinguishable by their flowers in early summer).

Carex dissita


Mānuka (Leptospermum scoparium) has thin brown bark which is shed in long strips. The species is becoming less common in this maturing bush. Trunks of large, dead manuka which fall and rot on the forest floor provide nourishment for the next cycle.

Leptospermum scoparium, mānuka

 Down the steps to the left, onto the Kohekohe Track.


The shiny fern with serrated leaves is petako or sickle spleenwort (Asplenium polyodon). Nearby is shining karamu (Coprosma lucida).

Asplenium polyodon, sickle spleenwort

Turn left at the bottom of the steps.


This grove of kahikatea (see 4) comprises juveniles with feathery leaves and many young adults acquiring threadlike leaves. Young kahikatea are often packed so tightly together they knock each other in the wind.

juvenile kahikatea


This large female pigeonwood (Hedycarya arborea) has numerous vertical, blackish epicormic shoots growing from its trunk.

Hedycarya arborea, pidgeonwood


This large kahikatea is thought to be more than 150 years old and to have started life in a more open environment, with little competition. Fortunately she is female – the seed source for numerous younger kahikatea growing throughout the park. Nearby are several healthy young puriri (Vitex lucens) – likely sprung from seeds dropped by native pigeons, which come to feast on kahikatea berries in spring.  Nearby nikau (Rhopalostylis sapida) probably had the same beginnings.

Dacrycarpus dacridioides, kahikatea

Continue over the bridge and resume track left. Note the many young adult kahikatea and pigeonwood here.


The ferns downstream of the bridge are kiokio — Parablechnum novae-zealandiae. They have large fronds with wavy segments. The giant sedge upstream is Gahnia xanthocarpa. Look down and admire the thick, old kahikatea roots in the stream bed, which have twisted together to form pools and waterfalls. They help strengthen the stream bank.

Parablechnum novae-zealandiae, kiokio
Gahnia xanthocarpa
Gahnia xanthocarpa


In the background, covering the stream bed, is a mass of kiekie (Freycinetia banksii)a scrambler with long, narrow, dark green leaves and interesting arum-like flowers in late spring.

Freycinetia banksii, kiekie


A thriving specimen of native broom (Carmichaelia australis). It has flattened stems and small mauve flowers in spring.

Carmichaelia australis, native broom
Carmichaelia australis, native broom


Look across the stream to the conical forms of emergent kahikatea and some fine cabbage trees, tī kōuka (Cordyline australis), which tolerate damp feet.

Cordyline australis, cabbage tree


A grove of 50 or more tanekaha,  or celery pine (Phyllocladus trichomanoides) — a familiar tree in the park and one of the most beautiful, especially in its juvenile stage. Note the horizontal ridges on their trunks. Tanekaha like growing on ridges.

Phyllocladus trichomanoides, tanekaha


Sharp-eyed observers may spot the dainty thread fern (Icarus filiforme), creeping over the ground, or climbing up manuka trunks.   

Icarus filiforme


A specimen of coastal five finger, or houpara (Pseudopanax lessonii), a small, useful tree found in North Island coastal forest. The females fruit in June and July, providing a critical winter food source for birds.

Pseudopanax lessonii, houpara


Tree daisy (Olearia furfuracea)has leathery leaves with glossy surfaces and softer, downy undersides. In the streambed note the mass of kiekie and twining supplejack which, in early summer, bears orange berries. Look deeper into the bush here and you may see a bird trough, placed here to provide birds with drinking and bathing water in summer.

Olearia furfuracea
Olearia furfuracea, tree daisy


A swamp maire (Syzygium maire) has been planted about 2 metres beyond the numbered post. It has yellowish-green “opposite” leaves – meaning they come off the stem opposite one another instead of randomly, or alternately. Swamp maire’s creamy-white flowers appear in autumn and are followed by red fruit in late winter. Three metres along the track, on the left, is another native broom (see 16).

Syzygium maire
Syzygium maire, swamp maire


Two contrasting tree ferns here: silver fern and the rough tree fern, or whekī (Dicksonia squarrosa), which is hardy and fast-growing. It has a slender black trunk clothed in tan-coloured dead fronds.

Dicksonia squarrosa, whekī


On the silver fern trunks, the tiny protruding fern is Tmesipteris elongata. All four Tmesipteris species are present in the park. For more detail see Just Scrub (mentioned below).

Tmesipsteris elongata


Across the stream are two planted pukatea (Laurelia novae-zealandiae) – their leaves are glossy, serrated and upright. One day these trees may reach 35 metres.

Laurelia novae-zealandiae, pukatea

Keep straight ahead, up the steps, onto the Putaputaweta track.


Here is gully fern (Pneumatopteris pennigera), which has deeply-serrated leaves, and kiokio (see 14) whose leaves are wavy. Kiokio’s new spring growth is attractively red-tinged.

Pneumatopteris pennigera, gully fern


This kahikatea is perhaps 50 years old. Its bark is a tapestry of colour: peach, silver and chocolate, blended with the greys and greens of lichens and mosses.


This pōhutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa) started life as an epiphyte (a perching plant) on a now-dead tree fern. It has sent aerial roots to the ground.

Metrosideros excelsa, pohutukawa
Metrosideros excelsa, pohutukawa


An old putaputawētā, or marble-leaf (Carpodetus serratus), with its larger marbled leaves.

Note the holes in the trunk made by grubs of the puriri moth, a large, pale green, furry moth (females 15cm, males 10cm). Eggs are laid in flight and the caterpillars crawl on the ground until they find a tree to their liking. They eat live wood during their five-year life cycle, boring tunnels near the centre of the trunk and concealing the openings by incorporating pieces of chewed bark into web curtains.

Putaputawētā is Maori for “many holes for weta” – weta often live in abandoned puriri moth holes.

Artificial “weta motels” have been installed around the park. If you are lucky you may find weta in residence.

Carpodetus serratus, marble leaf, putaputawētā


Another very old putaputawētā. Note how healthy this stretch of stream is: thick riparian vegetation holds the banks intact and shades the water; the water is clear and filtered and erosion is minimal.


This healthy planted nīkau (Rhopalostylis sapida) is surrounded by putaputaweta. In wet weather, stop here and listen to the streamwater chuckling.

Rhopalostylis sapida, nikau
Rhopalostylis sapida, nīkau


Numerous silver ferns here – but among them are two rough tree ferns (Dicksonia squarrosa).

Can you spot them? Clue: drooping, tan-coloured dead foliage and thin black stipes (fronds).

At the track junction you have the option of turning left, and then right after 35 metres, up onto the golf course 14th tee – for a good view down the valley. Then retrace your steps…

…and turn right onto the Mamaku Track.


Another planted nīkau. Council has carried out work to strengthen the stream bed and reduce erosion.


Note the change in vegetation as the track climbs. This is gumland scrub, an endangered habitat in Auckland because it is considered so expendable when development options are being considered.


In this light well are young putaputawētā and māhoe.


The thick-trunked teatree is kānuka (Kunzea robusta) – longer-lived than manuka. Kanuka is a large tree which can live 200 years. The pillowy, threadlike sedge is Schoenus tendo

Kunzea robusta, kanuka


Venture off trail a short distance and you will find one of the park’s two WW2 pillboxes. The army bulldozed the bush to permit the view from these reinforced concrete shelters to extend the full length of the valley.


The row of large pines are Pinus elliottii – the slash pine – planted as a boundary under the original golf club lease. Here you have a long view down the valley.

Here also you can compare the softer, fine leaves of kanuka – “kind kanuka” – with the darker, pricklier leaves of manuka – “mean manuka” – further on.

Pinus elliottii


Many kauri (Agathis australis) were planted here in the 80s and 90s by Bush Society founder Pat Morton and her team of volunteers. Note the thick, short, narrow leaves of kauri.


Umbrella fern (Gleichenia dicarpa) has flat-topped fronds. It is common in dry places.

The large tree with stringy bark, 10 metres off the track, is a totara (Podocarpus totara), probably planted in 1940. Lines of trees were planted in knee-high scrub around then, but they have grown slowly, partly because of the condition of the ground — kauri leave a legacy of hard (podsolised) clay of very low fertility.

Gleichenia dicarpa, umbrella fern
Podocarpus totara
Podocarpus totara

Turn right at the top of this track onto the Baylis Track.


The small tree with erect, fine leaves is gumland grass tree (Dracophyllum sinclairii) – there are a number on this track but they are becoming increasingly rare as their gumland scrub habitat disappears. The wiry fern is clubmoss (Lycopodium deuterodensum). Here also is sword sedge (Lepidosperma laterale) – the only specimen of this interesting species in the park.

Dracophyllum sinclairii
Lycopodium deuterodensum club moss
Lycopodium deuterodensum, club moss


A mature puriri, Vitex lucens. Note its large, wavy leaves with prominent veins and year-round small pink flowers, which provide nectar for tui.


A fine rimu (Dacrydium cupressinum), planted in the 1940s, and more dragonleaf below

Dacrydium cupressinum, rimu
Dacrydium cupressinum, rimu


Remains of a felled pine. Pines spread into and repress regenerating native forest. To foster this native bush, many pines were ring-barked in the 1970s and left to die. Whether they fall to pieces, or are eventually felled, ring-barked pines do less damage to the surrounding bush because they are bare-branched and light. This practice is no longer permitted and wild pines must be felled or left.


A planted totara – note its spiralling, stringy bark. Totara leaves are prickly.


A planted tītoki (Alectryon excelsus). Between 46 and 47 look out for the giant rimu and a rimu with a twisted trunk…

Alectryon excelsus, tītoki


A large, planted rewarewa (Knightia excelsa) – New Zealand honeysuckle – with a 1940s totara alongside. Rewarewa has long serrated leaves, red flowers in spring followed by woody follicles. Rewarewa flowers produce abundant nectar – important for tui and for the honey industry.

Now test yourself. Six trees you have already met on the trail occur over the next 100 metres. See if you can recognise them: totara, tanekaha, rimu, kauri, silver fern and mapou.

How did you do?

On to the last three numbers…

Knightia excelsa, rewarewa
Knightia excelsa, rewarewa

On to the last three numbers…


Hebe(Veronica macrocarpa var. macrocarpa), is an edge plant, characteristic of gumland scrub. Note its long, narrow leaves. In late winter it has white flowers, tinged with mauve.

Hebe IMGP0048
Veronica macrocarpa, hebe

49 Bush lawyer (Rubus cissoides) is a native climber related to blackberry. It has coarsely-toothed leaves, panicles of white flowers in mid-winter, yellowish fruit and hooks for climbing. The small tree nearby with thick, leathery, wavy-edged leaves is the tree daisy (Olearia furfuracea).


Rubus cissoides, bush lawyer


A thriving bush of prickly mingimingi.

You have now reached the end of the Nature Trail. Standing guard near the track exit are several harakeke (Phormium tenax); ornamental, robust and tolerant of most conditions. Flax fibre is still used in traditional weaving and panelling and for making cloth for korowai (feather cloaks); the dramatic red or yellow flax flowers are irresistible to birds and bees.

Across the clearing are two small planted trees: a swamp maire (Syzygium maire) and a pukatea (Laurelia novae-zealandiae).

You are at the end of the trail and are back where you started. We hope you enjoyed it! More information about the park’s trees and plants can be found in Just Scrub – the Centennial Park Bush Society’s booklet, which is available from the society and is also published online:   Just Scrub describes and illustrates the plants in the bush and is an excellent guide to recognising them and learning their common, Maori and botanical names.

If you feel adventurous, walk the full length of the Kohekohe Valley and enter the mysterious world of the mamaku, or black tree fern (Cyathea medullaris).  If you want to picnic, or throw a ball, head to the Arboretum – an area of open grassy spaces and interesting exotic trees, between the Nature Trail clearing and Beach Road.

The Centennial Park Bush Society is actively involved in the whole Campbells Bay catchment: carrying out weed and pest control, planting native trees, maintaining the tracks and generally acting as kaitiaki of the park. If you would like to help care for the park, get in touch:

 This nature trail guide is compiled by the Centennial Park Bush Society.