Posted By QEII National Trust | October 20, 2021

At QEIIit’s no secret that we love native plants. From the strong and sturdy to the beautiful and fragrant, all the way through the weird and wonderful there are so many wonderful native New Zealand plants.  
Every year the team at the New Zealand Plant Conservation Network (NZPCN) run ‘New Zealand’s Favourite Plant’ an online vote to determine the people’s choice of New Zealand native plants.  
Although choosing just one to vote for can be a big task, the vote is great chance to celebrate native plant life in Aotearoa New Zealand and everyone can get involved by voting. It also helps NZPCN find out why New Zealanders love native plants and helps raise greater awareness and appreciation of rare or threatened native species as well as celebrating the overall unique flora found in Aotearoa New Zealand. 
The vote had a brief hiatus for 2020 and is back better than ever for 2021. There have been some notable winners in the past. In 2018, an orchid, Caladenia alata, took out the title for the first time and in 2011 two liverworts featured in the top 10, these are tiny primitive plants which most people think are slime.  

The orchid Caladenia alata, 2019 winner
Frullaria wairua (Nationally critical liverwort) a finalist in 2011

The vote is tight this year, with the pygmy button daisy Leptinella nana climbing into first place in the last few days. This nationally critical tiny herb is only found in a few places around the country, including a small population in a QEII protected covenant in the Marlborough area where it pops up in bare patches left by regular floodsHowever, these patches are also favoured by weeds in particular grasses, tradescantia and Selaginella. It is quite fussy about the amount of sun/shade it gets and grows best in artificially disturbed sitesIts stronghold is the Rai Valley in Marlborough and has been found in places like sheep grazing sites (the sheep keep the weeds in check), mown lawns and even a gravel carpark. The total amount of Leptinella nana in the wild would cover less than 20 square metres in total.  
It took the top spot from ngutukākākākābeak. There are very few ngutukākā in the wild as it is threatened by goats, deer, possums and slugsNgutukākā is a firm favourite in the vote and has regularly appeared in the top 10 but has never won.  

Leptinella nana, for scale the aluminium marking peg in the background is thinner than a pencil. Photo credit: Tom Stein
A close up of Leptinella nana. Photo credit: Jeremy Rolfe

A spotlight on haumakāroa
Our regional representative for Southland, Jesse Bythell, has picked haumakāroa Raukaua simplex for her vote this year.

Also known as haumakōroahaumangōroa or houmangōroa in the South, and kaiwhiririkaiwiria, or kōarearea for the juvenile form, this highly palatable plant is Jesse’s front runner because when she spots it in lowland and montane forests, haumakāroa can tell her if any introduced mammalian browse pressure is occurring and what type. 

While the conservation status for this plant is ‘Not Threatened’ (de Lange et al., 2017) Jesse worries that this may change in the future if haumakāroa continues to retreat from forests due to the onslaught of goats, deer, and possums. Hinds target this plant to feed on the nutritious bark, which easily kills mature trees by ringbarking. In most areas of the Murihiku/Southland region, haumakāroa recruitment is prevented by feral deer which are widespread and becoming increasingly abundant, and new plants are only present on inaccessible bluffs or growing as epiphytes. 

However, the issue persists as goats can get into places deer can’t and plants on bluffs or growing as epiphytes are not inaccessible to possums. With chronic pressure from introduced mammals, this could be one more taonga at risk of disappearing from our landscapes. 

Haumakāroa, along with many others, is a plant that we take for granted as being common and widespread, help form the rich tapestry of our forests and provide resources for our treasured native animals. 

Haumakāroa. Photo credit: Jesse Bythell

Featured image: Ngutukākā in bloom. Photo credit: Malcolm Rutherford


Voting can be done on the NZPCN website. Voting opened on 1 October and closes on 31 October at midnight. Voting is limited to one vote per person and votes can be made for any plant (or marine macroalgae or lichen) that is native to Aotearoa New Zealand.

Voting closes on midnight 31 October 2021.