Aug 2015 – New Zealand – here we come! – Robin Carsberg

Well, that title surprised you didn’t it?

Not half as much as we were surprised at our last meeting when the speaker, Robin Carlsberg, arrived early, leisurely set up most of his equipment whilst chatting with the members, finally deciding to unpack his computer…… but where was it? Nowhere to be seen! In more than 20 years of giving talks this was the first time that he had left it beside his front door ready to be packed into his boot. What to do? Cancel the meeting – No. Talk through the presentation – No. Instead he hot-footed it (can you hot foot in a car, I ask myself) back to Great Dunmow, a 60 mile round trip!

Of course members of this friendly club took it all in their stride. (I am obsessed with feet at the moment having endured recent surgery on a wayward toe) Unfortunately there were no bottles of wine so we passed a pleasant interlude sipping our coffee instead and reminiscing.

Eventually the talk commenced and we were not disappointed. Beautiful slides of orchids in Singapore Botanic gardens were the prelude to stunning views of New Zealand, or Aotearoa, the Land of the Long White Cloud. It is a country of two large islands and many smaller ones in the south-western Pacific Ocean. Because of its long isolation from the rest of the world, and its island geography, New Zealand has extraordinary flora and fauna, about 80% of which only occurs there. It was difficult to believe that a similar climate to ours produced such exotic flowers and trees.

Words cannot do justice to the beautiful countless images which flashed across the screen. We will remember the blues and pinks of the wild lupins in the meadows of the South Island, the Kowhai – the native tree with yellow cascading flowers which are regarded as the national flower. New Zealand has an unusually high number of fern species for a temperate country and about 40 per cent of these species occur nowhere else in the world. The trees deserve a special mention. The Lancewood, or horoeka, is a unique, small tree with lance-like foliage that changes dramatically as the tree matures and stops animals climbing up to eat the young leaves. Then there is the Matagouri, or ’Wild Irishman’ with its thorns which were used by early Maori as tattooing needles and whose flowers make very good honey.

We need another talk to learn about the wildlife so I will end with just one example – Tūī are common throughout New Zealand, they are attractive birds with a distinctive white tuft under their throat contrasting dramatically with the metallic blue-green sheen of their underlying black feathers. It seems to me that it would be worth the air fare just to see a tūī. In fact a shoo-in for a successful holiday (Get it?)

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