Auckland high school students sprang into action when thrown an unusual challenge: who could collect the most moth plants pods?
If you’re wondering about the reason behind this strange treasure hunt, let’s introduce you to the moth plant.
What is moth plant?
One of Auckland’s most noxious weeds, the plant is a woody vine that can grow up to eight meters high, has sticky white sap, smothers native vegetation and produces masses of seed pods which burst and scatter hundreds of more seeds. The wind spreads those seeds and so the invasion continues.
In the past few years though, Pest Free Auckland has been fighting back to eradicate the moth plant – now helped by this small army of students from five colleges across Auckland.
Pod hunting competition
Mike Ashby – the Head of the Physics Department at Mt Albert Grammar – organised the pod hunting competition, sponsored by Albert-Eden and Howick local boards.
50 competing students removed 32,926 pods from the environment – preventing around 29 million seeds growing into plants to smother our ecosystems.
Mike volunteers with planting days and pest eradication, and thought up the competition after noticing moth plant running wild next to his school grounds. He was inspired by the response from the students.
"Some of the entries from the students were just overwhelming; the pods were in the thousands per entry,” he says. “They’ve really made a big difference.”
Winners all round (except for the moth plants)
The top students removed more than 1000 pods each; with Izzy and Lucia MacKenzie (Mt Albert Grammar) collecting 2600 pods; Olivia Airey and Hilari Atkinson (Marist) amassing 2500 pods, Alana Kerr bringing in 2051 pods and Amelali Vaka (Howick) bringing in 1083 pods.
As a prize for the student’s heroic work, Auckland Council's Sustainable Schools team are flying the five winners and Mike to the pest-free Motutapu Island – courtesy of In Flite helicopters – on Saturday 16 June.
Motutapu Restoration Trust will give the young champions a tour of the island, introduce them to takahē and teach them more about how to effectively remove moth plant and dispose of the pods.
The students will return to the mainland armed with fresh knowledge to share with their communities and fuel the battle to eradicate moth plant.
If you see moth plant in a hedge, fence or garden near you – make sure to pull it out! Or get involved with Pest Free Auckland, a community-led conservation programme facilitated by Auckland Council, to keep our city’s environment thriving.