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Kauri cones collected for a cause

Published: 1 August 2016
  • View from the canopy of healthy kauri trees.
  • Kauri cones collected for the biocontrol trial.
  • Kauri seeds germinating in the Auckland Botanic Gardens nursery.
  • Arborist Fredrik Hjelm at work collecting kauri cones.

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Kauri cones collected for a cause

An army of kauri cones has been gathered from healthy kauri around Auckland to join the fight against kauri dieback disease.

Ecologists at the Auckland Botanic Gardens have now propagated 700 seeds from these cones, which will eventually be tested at a containment facility in Hamilton.

“Usually only half the seeds in a cone are viable, so we needed to gather thousands,” says Rebecca Stanley, Curator at the Botanic Gardens. “Most cones contain around 100 viable seeds, so we gathered only what we needed to ensure there were plenty left in the environment to grow into healthy trees.”

Giants of the forest

Kauri tree cones usually grow in the canopy of mature trees – around 20 metres high – so Auckland Council had to call in expert help from arborist and owner of The Living Tree Company Fredrik Hjelm and his contractor Scott Forrest, an international champion tree climber.

“Kauri support a vast array of life,” says Fredrik. “This includes a multitude of epiphytes, or plants that happily grow among the uppermost parts of the tree.

“We were very careful to wash and disinfect our climbing gear before and after the climb to make sure no soil, seeds or unwanted diseases were brought into the healthy kauri grove.”

What’s next?

Once taken to the containment facility, seedlings will be infected with the disease and treated with a biological control agent.

If results are successful, the biocontrol agent could be used to help healthy trees ward off the disease or even used to treat infected ones.

“So many trees are dying or getting infected, so it’s exciting to be doing something proactive to fight this disease and help protect this precious native species,” says Rebecca.

Get involved

Now is a great time to find out about pest and disease management in your area – check out Auckland Council’s Biosecurity page for more information.

To find out how you can help prevent the spread of kauri dieback and keep our kauri standing, visit the NZ Kauri Dieback website.