Wilding pines
Pines seem to like the Knobbies.

From Tucker Hill to Graveyard Gully, and down the Clutha almost to Shellbacks Beach, individual trees, some with a spreading family of seedlings, appear to be doing surprisingly well.

There are more of them every time I glance out of our kitchen widow, and the skyline around the top of Graveyard Gully is beginning to look distinctly forested.

Perhaps it's got something to do with the increasing numbers and maturity of pines on the Alexandra-Clyde flat, with strong nor-west winds carrying seed up onto the west-facing slopes of the Knobby Range. Perhaps those slopes are a bit more pine-friendly than they once were. A few wet springs must help.

Whatever the reason, the trees raise interesting questions. Are they a good thing? Is that landscape, so much a part of Alexandra's visual identity, enhanced or spoiled by the steady encroachment of wilding pines? Is it any of our business (the landowner or leaseholder may also have an opinion)?

Some were poisoned a few years ago, and DOC occasionally raises posses to eradicate wilding pines on conservation land, so we can assume a good case exists to do away with them. I guess the core of the argument is that because they're not natives, wilding pines spoil a natural landscape.

The Knobbies covered in pines would certainly be different. But the hillsides and their surrounds are hardly 'natural'. The Alexandra-Springvale-Clyde area would be unrecognisable to a pioneer of 100 years ago. Early photographs show just tussock and matagourie, with not a tree to be seen.

Since then the Clutha has been dammed, above and below, and filled with silt. Gold mining and sluicing has scalped Tucker Hill, scarred many hillsides, and completely removed Frenchman's Point, once opposite the mouth of the Manuherikia. The signs of human habitation are everywhere you look.

If the wilding pines on the Knobby Range are left alone, to strike their own ecological balance, we may end up (and who knows how long it will take) with something like a Texas piney wood. Thinly forested slopes with lots of bare rock showing through. Hardly 'natural', but it's far from natural now.

I quite like the thought of that.

Friday, November 06, 1998

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