Fiordland’s flora – a Fiordland hiker’s guide

15 Dec 2015

Fiordland’s tumultuous weather is what gives the region its unique character, helping to shape the types of native flora Fiordland is famous for. Water is what makes Fiordland’s lakes, streams, waterfalls and fiords so impressive, but often high mountain peaks and deep valleys mean that pockets of inland areas are sheltered from rain. The result is forest floors wrapped in quilts of ferns that contrast with rugged, dry alpine tussock fields and rocky tarns, cloaked with snow in the winter which is perfect for Fiordland hiking. It’s a fascinating landscape to explore if you love unique and interesting plant species.

From mountain buttercups to daisies and tree fuchsia, Fiordland’s bright, hardy plants survive in some of harshest conditions in the country and are always fun to spot when out on one of our guided Fiordland day hikes. We’ve put together a hiker’s guide to our favorite Fiordland plants to inspire you to visit the region and see them for yourself!

Mountain Lacebark (Houhi)

Also known as mountain ribbonwood, this plant is one of New Zealand’s few deciduous trees, growing to around 3 meters. It flourishes around the edges of Fiordland’s rainforests and on and banks of streams, often forming a glade.  It can be seen around the Divide and upper Hollyford Valley

See it for yourself: Mountain lacebark thrives in the Gertrude Valley and in the Darran Mountains that surround Milford Sound. Our Milford Sound Coach, Cruise and Walk passes through this area and if you choose the short walk option on a nice day we will explore this remote valley. Alternatively for the more adventurous traveler book a full day Gertrude Guided Walk.

Fiordland Hiking Mountain Lacebark

Fiordland Hiking Mountain Lacebark

Mount Cook Lily (Korikori, Mountain Buttercup)

The classic mountain buttercup loves a wet habitat, so it’s no surprise that it thrives throughout Fiordland. Look for this pretty plant around stream banks, moist mountain meadows and close to tarns. Endemic to New Zealand, it is the world’s largest buttercup.  The Mount Cook lily looks striking amongst Fiordland’s grand mountain scenery.

See it for yourself: You’ll be able to come across this plant in most of Fiordland’s wilderness areas. As the Mount Cook Lily is an alpine plant it is best seen on a Trips & Tramps Coach, Cruise and Walk to Milford Sound, or Routeburn Track Guided Walk.  Your guide will be able to point them out to you.

Fiordland hiking Mountain Buttercup

Fiordland Hiking Mountain Buttercup

Mountain Daisy (Tikumu)

Abundant in mountain grasslands and herb fields, the large-leafed mountain daisy has leathery, stiff leaves and typical daisy ‘rosette’ style flowers. During summer, large mountain daisy plants make stunning floral displays – contrasting with the dry alpine tussock and rugged landscapes in which they thrive. Mountain Daisies are at their prettiest in Fiordland in January each year.

See it for yourself: Mountain daisies thrive in Fiordland’s mountain grasslands and herb fields. The Trips & Tramps Routeburn Track Guided Walk and Kepler Heli-Hike are your best options for spotting this lovely flower.

Fiordland hiking Mountain Daisy

Fiordland Hiking Mountain Daisy

Tree Fuschia (Kotukutuku)

Considered to be the world’s largest fuschia plant, the tree fuschia (or kotukutuku) loves Fiordland’s abundant rainfall and damp rainforests. The plant grows up to 12 metres tall, and can form a trunk over 1 metre in diameter – there’s nothing dainty about the tree fuschia! Its flowers are rich in nectar and are visited by honey-eating birds, especially bellbirds, tui and silvereyes.

See it for yourself: Tree fuschia dots the lush rainforests of the Milford Track. Get a taste of the Milford Track with our guided day hike, where you’ll see ancient canopy trees, emerald ferns and huge plants of tree fuschia.

Fiordland hiking Tree Fuschia

Fiordland Hiking Tree Fuschia

Vegetable Sheep (Raoulia)

You heard it right – vegetable sheep!  These are densely compacted, rounded, cushion plants that grow in high alpine areas.  They have adapted to this harsh environment in order to reduce water loss by evaporation due to wind and heat.  Their branches are covered in small woolly leaves and from a distance can look like sheep!

See it for yourself:  As vegetable sheep are found solely in alpine areas you can see them on Routeburn Guided Walk, Kepler Heli-Hike and on the Milford Sound Coach Cruise and Walk.

Fiordland hiking vegetable sheep

Fiordland Hiking Vegetable Sheep

Love interesting flora and fauna? So does the team here at Trips & Tramps. All of our Fiordland hiking day trips include a knowledgeable nature guide, ensuring that our guests are able to learn about Fiordland’s unique environment while out exploring. Ranging from day hikes on New Zealand’s Great Walks to coach, cruise and walking packages in Milford Sound, all of our experiences showcase Fiordland’s truly unique flora and wildlife. Choose one of our scheduled trips or create a special private day with a focus on the native fauna and flora – we can tailor the day to ensure you get to see the best of the best! Get in touch for a chat – we’d love to hear from you. 

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