Is that a Dr Seuss tree that I can see?

05:01, Nov 23 2012
Melissa Hutchison
RARE FIND: Wildland Consultants ecologist Melissa Hutchison will spend today searching for more examples of a plant that had not been seen for more than 170 years in Canterbury.

More than 170 years after it was last spotted, a rare plant has been found again in Canterbury.

Earlier this year, Wildland Consultants ecologist Melissa Hutchison was doing a survey for the Christchurch City Council in Okains Bay when she spotted a "classical Dr Seuss tree".

"I didn't realise what it was at the time. I knew I hadn't seen it before."

A few days later, botanist Hugh Wilson confirmed it was a Pittosporum obcordatum, an extremely rare specimen.

The nationally vulnerable plant, that grows to about five metres, can be found in a few scattered locations in the North Island and in the Catlins.

The plant was discovered in the Akaroa area by Etienne Raoul in the 1840s.


Efforts by botanists to find it again in Canterbury had failed.

"There was some doubt that it had ever been there," Hutchison said.

She has found another 25 examples of the plant and 100 seedlings in the area.

The discovery raised several questions about whether the plant was elsewhere and how it regenerated, she said.

Hutchison will spend the summer researching the Pittosporum obcordatum, thanks to a grant from the Conservation Department's biodiversity advice fund.

The Press