The forest is mainly mountain beech (Nothofagus solandri). It is thought that millions of years ago much of the forest that covered the ancient land mass of Gondwanaland looked like our local forests. Fossils of similar beech trees have been found in Antarctica, and descendants survive in Chile, Australia and New Guinea.
By arrangement with the Department of Conservation, at Grasmere Lodge we are removing introduced trees such as holly and rowan, and using a broom weevil species as a biological control to remove the invasive broom plants. This will assist in the regeneration of the mountain beech.
Above the bush-line there is alpine scrub and tussock grasslands. Scree plants are sparse but well suited to an incredibly harsh environment of bright light, temperature extremes, moving shingle and drying winds.
Don’t expect colourful wildflowers – most of New Zealand’s native flowers are white, to attract the native moths which pollinate them.
New Zealand has no native predators, only one type of poisonous spider (found under logs at beaches), and the only native mammal is a rare bat.
There are no bears, mountain lions, snakes, wolves or anything else to attack hikers.
Some of our bird species are flightless, others habitually feed or dwell on the forest floor. Introduced stoats and brushtail possums are their biggest threats and we have a trapping and poisoning programme at Grasmere Lodge in order to eradicate these pests and protect our birdlife.
One bird you might see is the kea (Nestor notabilis), the world’s only alpine parrot. They are naturally inquisitive, highly intelligent, and very mischievous. They stand about 46 cm (18 inches) high, and are olive-green, but with scarlet-orange underwings, only visible in flight. Often you'll know they're in the area by their high-pitched call "keee-aaaa."
Please do not feed kea, but let them look for their natural foods, like berries, roots, shoots and insect larvae. Feeding attracts kea to areas of human use, such as carparks, picnic and camping areas, where they may damage cars, tents and personal gear. They don’t just go after shiny articles, they’ll destroy anything they can with their tough beaks, but probably only out of boredom and curiosity. They have been known to attack and kill sheep, and in the past there was a bounty on their beaks, but now kea are fully protected by law.
With thanks to the NZ Department of Conservation for some of this information.