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Succulent plants from down under Adventive Plants (Part 7):

The succulent corner at Yankee Wharf, Rangitoto A new Aeonium natural hybrid in New Zealand?
(Notes on Aeonium Rangitoto - I)

XVII. The succulent corner at Yankee Wharf, Rangitoto (1)

Well, after the huge disappointment to see the Islington Bay Aeonium colony decimated by the Department of
Conservation (see E. Zimer, 2009a) we had to decide what to do next. The main purpose of the January 2009
trip to Rangitoto was to take as many pictures as possible and to try to catalogue somehow the existing
Aeonium forms existing in the small colony just south of Islington Bay wharf, but now all our hopes went off in
flames. The sight was simply depressing all bigger plants with distinctive features have been removed; I was
so upset that I simply left the site. Ironically, we have found our other target of the day the Agave americana
colony halfway between the Islington Bay wharf and the passage to Motutapu Island also being checked and
depleted from almost all bigger plants. A third objective the Wreck Bay, a place where several obsolete
vessels were sunken or abandoned ashore until late in the WW2 years was only of moderate interest as far as
I am concerned. We simply have lost a lot of time crossing the island for nothing. At least thats what I

1. A wonderful
Nerium oleander
in flower halfway
between Islington
Bay wharf and
Yankee Wharf.

Fortunately Rangitoto is not a place to get easily bored or impatiently wait for the next ferry (except when
youre running out of water) so that my younger son Vlad (my companion during the Rangitoto trips) and I
took the decision to move rapidly back to the southern parts of the island in order to have a closer look at some
other hot spots we havent visited before like Kidney Fern Glen, Kowhai Grove and McKenzie Bay and if time
allows to have a quick run to Wilsons Park the remnants of an intended botanical garden, which reportedly
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has also included few cacti and other succulent plants. It was still enough time for all of this we thought.
Luckily we didnt decide to return to Rangitoto Wharf on the same route we came here, on the Islington Bay
Road, faster indeed but less attractive for people with browsing habits like us but took the narrow coastal
track instead. It proved that was in fact the best decision we could possibly take, even if we missed all other
targets set for the day and nearly missed the last ferry to Auckland as well.
Ten minutes later and we have already reached Yankee Wharf. Just a short distance south of this place we
didnt fail to notice the high concentration of succulent and non-succulent naturalized plants in this area not a
high number of species, but a large number of plants scattered along the rocky shores, literally thousands of
them from seedlings to well established individuals in places where the young pohutukawa (Metrosideros
excelsa) bush doesnt come right to the waterline leaving larger areas of exposed lava fields. This kept us busy
for most of the time we still had to spend on the island.
You cant miss this succulent hot spot if you take the eastern coastal track south. One of the first signs that you
are close to the succulent hot spot is a magnificent Nerium oleander on the right side of the track, not a
succulent plant but still a beauty when in flower. And standing out from the usual pohutukawa dominated
vegetation anyway. From here on there are just few more minutes to go. There is a high concentration of
Agapanthus praecox ssp. orientalis here, both white and blue flowering forms (2), simply infesting the area
which immediately draws your attention from the distance. This extremely invasive plant thrives here
apparently undisturbed and unharmed in recent times by the Department of Conservation (probably still
concerned about the Agave americana and Aeonium colonies just a bit north) and spreads its seed all over the
place creating in few corners a cover of young seedlings as you can see in some of the pictures.

2. The site south of

Yankee Wharf with
beyond the shallow
waters of the channel.
You can see the
predominance of the
Agapanthus praecox
ssp. orientalis in this

There is no proper soil here but lava flows with pockets of sand or shingle; lichens are almost everywhere, very
abundant in certain areas, and also organic debris or semi-decayed organic matter accumulates between and
under the plants. In some places there rock has been apparently quarried leaving certain amounts of grit and
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finer particles. In some places even 5 or 10 meters from the shore the lava blocks are covered with a thin
layer of shingle and shells possibly brought in by storms or maybe by land works. The entire place looks
exposed but is quite sheltered actually even if close to the waterline the calm shallow waters of the narrow
channel between Motutapu and Rangitoto islands have a very low dynamic and certainly do not provide full on
marine exposure. Somewhat higher grounds protect also the area from east and west.

3. The splendour of the

pure white flowering head
of Agapanthus praecox
thousands of seedlings of
this prolific seeder are
simply infesting the area
and posing a major threat
for adjacent parts of
Rangitoto. I trust you have
also noticed the tiny
Crassula multicava and
Crassula tetragona ssp.
robusta plantlets hanging
on to the lava block in the

4 5. Two slightly different growth forms of Sarcocornia quinqueflora ssp. quinqueflora.

The only native succulent we have seen here was the halophyte chenopod Sarcocornia quinqueflora ssp.
quinqueflora. It does not form massive population as elsewhere in Rangitoto, but still small tussocks are
scattered here and there, within or near the splash zone. A very distinct feature of this plant is that it creates
different growth forms depending on the amount and frequency of the seawater it usually gets. In places where
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the tide moistens the substrate (it can be even partly submerged) the plants are stronger, usually greener, and
with long erect or ascending stems; on rocks where it gets only mists of seawater on occasion Sarcocornia
quinqueflora ssp. quinqueflora stays smaller and stems have a somewhat contorted look. For an inexperienced
observer they may look like totally different plants. This is actually the only plant naturally occurring here, all
others are naturalized succulents being dispersed in more or less distant times from human settlements.
The rest of the succulent plants growing here is a collection of former garden glories. In fact some of them you
can still see in the mostly abandoned gardens around the baches. There is something that strikes you
immediately the abundance of succulent plants and no immediate source of infestation. In fact, quite far from
former human settlements the holiday baches, not to speak of the mainland - you definitely can see more
alien succulent plants here than close to the obvious infestation sources. And a stunning addition generally it
is not true for non-succulent garden plants. The lack of competition on these almost barren lava fields, possibly
human activity and disturbances has encouraged this rather strange localized vegetation pattern.
Sedum album is not as common as it is in the abandoned gardens near Islington Bay wharf, but we still have
seen few nice bronze coloured plants that have found the right place for them. Very easy to spot when in
flower, I usually can hardly notice their presence otherwise.

6. Sedum album
growing on a spot
with accumulations
of shingle, sand,
crushed shells and
vegetation debris. I
havent seen this
directly on the lava
blocks; apparently it
needs a thin layer of
rocky substrate to

Aeonium hybrids were also scattered everywhere, at least three distinct forms with obvious haworthii and
undulatum parentage, mostly smaller plants and surprisingly many plantlets, some of them almost stemless
and bearing only 2 cm wide rosettes. We havent seen any plants with flower remnants (the site must have been
checked in the past) but the large number of apparently young plants makes me think that seed was dispersed
here at some stage. I think it is very unlikely that only vegetative means of dispersal may have produced that
many plantlets not to speak of the variety of forms. We also couldnt find here two of the very interesting
forms seen in the Islington Bay colony one year before the forms being apparently very close to the true
species Aeonium haworthii and Aeonium undulatum. We also couldnt find the Islington Bay natural hybrid I
have provisionally named Aeonium Rangitoto (see further below the notes on Aeonium Rangitoto).
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7. Countless Aeonium
hybrids (mostly smallish
plants like these) are
preferring the cracks,
crevices and fissures of
the lava blocks.

8. One of the very few bigger

Aeonium plants. Probably due to
the very harsh conditions they do
not usually branch (excepting
Aeonium haworthii). Although I
havent seen here flowering plants
seed seem to have been dispersed
here at some stage.

9. Aeonium hybrid
the same
fissure in the lava block.
Both plants prefer this
Aloe maculata grows on
occasion on flat rocky
soils as well.

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Yankee Wharf is definitely a play ground for invasive plants the best example is probably the next couple of
plants. We havent seen Crassula tetragona ssp. robusta anywhere else on Rangitoto, but here and what a
view! We couldnt believe our eyes when we first saw the dense layer of seedlings and young plants covering
some areas. The word thickets would be a totally adequate description if we disregard the low height of these
plantlets, but try to imagine them reaching the height of a mature plant! With several flowering plants in the
area it is very probably seed that keeps the numbers up. On the other hand it is this kind of substrate offered
in Rangitoto that boosts its growth; you can see it in cultivation plant a Crassula tetragona up on a pile of
rocks or in a crack of a stone wall and it will thrive like nowhere else.

10 12. Crassula
tetragona ssp. robusta
is very abundant on
this site, forming dense
patches of
sized plants are also
numerous, some still
bearing the withered
inflorescences. Despite
the high density of
tetragona ssp. robusta
has just a much
localized distribution
and does not occur
anywhere else Ive
been in Rangitoto.

Crassula multicava is also very common, but not really taking over. Again, we are dealing here with a very
invasive plant having an extremely high infestation potential. Although reportedly New Zealand plants do not
set seed (possibly due to clonal propagation in early days of its cultivation) this plant has an even more
efficient mean of dispersal. Bigger plants are prolific flowerers and when the flowers start to wither tiny
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plantlets are formed in the axils of the inflorescence. Soon these become airborne and establish quickly in
moist pockets skipping the difficult germination process.

13 14. The composite

vegetation pattern display
is very eloquent in this
picture form the front to
the background, on only a
couple of meters, there are
four distinct rows of
plants: Crassula coccinea,
Agapanthus praecox ssp.
tetragona ssp. robusta,
and Aloe maculata. You
can also see how the
substrate changes over a
very short distance (left). A
fine specimen of Crassula
multicava (below).

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The once favourite of the cottage gardens Crassula coccinea, with its bright red inflorescences of long tubular
flowers is still catching your attention from the distance this time of the year. Flowers have started to wither,
but still you cant miss their bright red inflorescences. There are just few plants scattered here and there, some
plantlets as well. It does very well in gardens in rich soil but as all succulent plants here it has to grow on lava
blocks with barely any organic matter (mostly debris) accumulated in fissures and pockets.

15. The peculiar way of

vegetative propagation
in Crassula multicava
plants is visible in this
picture. It is also very
interesting how the plant
simply follows the trunk
Under the
trunk organic debris
accumulates and retains
the moisture hence the
vivid green plants in this

16. A flowering
Crassula coccinea
multicava plantlets
scattered in the

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17. The resurrection of a

Crassula coccinea plant.

18. Succulent
mix with a dead
Agapanthus in
the centre.

Carpobrotus edulis does not cover large areas; it looks more like plants have switched to survival mode here.
Lots of dead stems but also some active growth but not even close to the dense mats of crawling stems we can
find elsewhere. Truth is that its preferred habitat the sand dunes or the back of the beaches is not available
here, being forced to grow on bare rock. However, they seemed to find few spots with accumulated debris and
semi-decayed organic matter where survival was possible. But as the black basalt lava blocks get extremely hot
in high summer I think it is rather the heat these plants cant stand. Probably thats why it does not form the
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typical mats of vegetation but rather tries to mix with other plants in a very composite pattern as you can see
from the picture.

19. Carpobrotus edulis

trying to survive extreme
heat. This is one of the few
spots here at Yankee Wharf
where this plant seems to
have somewhat established
(although this is far from
its normal density and
growth pattern on sand
dunes). Probably the layer
of dead stems provides
some protection from the
lava blocks getting very hot
in high summer and also
retains precious moisture
for a bit longer.

Sedum praealtum ssp. praealtum does not form large groups, but rather scattered plants are seeking more for
shade and shelter. One of the things we have noticed these plants do not occur usually in open spaces, but
elsewhere where stronger plants have already established, in most of the cases at bush margins, but sometimes
almost hidden between Agapanthus tussocks very abundant in this area. There are mostly medium sized
plants and just very few plantlets pointing towards a vegetative reproduction this time. We have seen several
times this plant during past trips in Rangitoto, but none of them was flowering. I actually have no idea how the
flower looks like and it seems to be a rather shy flowerer.
Aloe maculata (aka Aloe saponaria) is also very common here and provides few very fine specimens.
Generally, you wont find the emerald green long leaved plants you can see on occasion in some shaded
gardens, growing in rich soils with plenty of water available, but ascetic individuals instead with short and redbrown coloured broad leaves, showing a very compact growth as a result of the exposure, intense sunlight
and quasi-constant water deficit. No wonder that T. F. Cheeseman who mentioned the first naturalized plants in
Remuera (Auckland) in 1883 has identified them as Aloe latifolia, a form with broader and shorter leaves now
fallen into synonymy. However, there are few glorious plants to see! Surprisingly, the very young plants are
extremely numerous in some corners. Aloe maculata can be propagated by seed (but it takes ages and is a
painful process, Ive been through this) or rhizomes emerging nearby. However, in this case the plants have no
real soil to protect the rhizomes from the harsh sun. There is also some distance between different plants; we
havent seen here the clump usually formed by cultivated plants. More, some of the plants grow in funny
places like cracks and fissures on elevated lava blocks, which rather points to seed dispersal than by vegetative
means. I havent seen any flowering plants (here or in other parts of Rangitoto) but I also assume this site is
checked from time to time by the Department of Conservation.

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20. Sedum praealtum

ssp. praealtum prefers
between higher plants or
vegetation and with
some accumulations of
decayed organic matter.

21. Another Sedum

praealtum plant between
and with the usual

And last but not least Aloe arborescens the big bonus of this trip. I couldnt believe my eyes when I saw it
first through the binoculars. This was such a surprise for us and quite a novelty I think the only Checklist on
naturalized plants it appears on is D.J. Mahons Canterbury naturalized vascular plant checklist, version June
2007, as a casual occurrence in Banks Peninsula, recorded by Wilson in 1999 but its presence on Rangitoto
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wasnt mentioned at all before in botanical references so far I know. The only Checklist of naturalized plants I
couldnt consult is the one published in 2008 in The New Zealand Journal of Botany, available only to
subscribers. A couple of well established individuals, showing again a rather very simplified growth forms,
quite different from the arborescent growth (hence the name) we can usually see in cultivated plants. Im a bit
clueless about how these plants could get here and propagate.

22 23. Aloe maculata is very

common at Yankee Wharf and
provides the most spectacular
specimens. The plant is shooting
rhizomes but the rosettes do not stay
very crowded as you can usually see
in cultivated plants because of the
scarcity of the moisture. All plants
here have the red-brownish colour due
to the exposed conditions and quasiconstant water deficit (left). An extra
fine specimen, full of character, with
extra short and extra broad leaves a
living statement of what it had to
endure (below).

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24 25. Freely mixing: Aloe maculata with Crassula multicava (left) and Aloe maculata with Carpobrotus edulis (right).

26. One of the big surprises we had on this Rangitoto trip Aloe arborescens,
never mentioned on Rangitoto in botanical or non-botanical accounts.

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growing directly on the lava
blocks, next to Sedum
praealtum ssp. praealtum
and with the pohutukawa
(Metrosideros excelsa) bush
in the background.

28. This picture would be an

ideal subject for a quiz like
unfortunately I wouldnt be
able to provide the right
background the pohutukawa
bush. Beyond this, there are
totally different vegetation
patterns with no succulent
plants at all.

This site is quite unusual and looks like a battlefield where several plants compete for the same spot.
Considering that the site is very probably checked by the Department of Conservation and mature plants often
removed (Zero Density Control) that gives fair chances of survival and regeneration to most of the species
present here. Old settled habitats look different plants share the habitat in a certain way depending on their
ability to colonize or survive in certain circumstances, there is a naturally grouping that occurs and plants of the
same vegetation layer dont mix readily. In some places one species eventually takes control and becomes the
dominant form of vegetation, but not here! Of course, some of the species already mentioned are more
abundant, some more isolated, but the amazing thing is that on only couple of square meters you can see here 4
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5 6 different species grow together and form a kind of vegetal mosaic, in a mix you usually dont see in the
To visit the succulent site south of Yankee Wharf is worth the effort and is quite instructive too this is how
our old fashioned garden succulents actually live in the wild, but youve got to be quick! The Department of
Conservation might take its role very seriously when you expect the least.

XVIII. A new Aeonium natural hybrid in New Zealand? (Notes on Aeonium Rangitoto - I) (3)
Well, I honestly dont know the answer yet. I have briefly mentioned in previous accounts (E. Zimer, 2008 and
2009a) and also published few pictures of a very interesting natural Aeonium haworthii hybrid from the
butchered colony just south of the Islington Bay wharf (I trust you will recall the pictures). My gut feeling is
that it is an Aeonium haworthii x Aeonium undulatum re-crossed with Aeonium haworthii. It is not quite
Aeonium haworthii; it also isnt the hybrid Aeonium haworthii x Aeonium undulatum (4) which used to be very
common in the area before the Department of Conservation took action. It also does not look exactly like other
horticultural hybrids I have seen in past years.
Long story short luckily I have collected two clones before the colony was decimated and planted them in my
rock garden. In both cultivated and wild state this hybrid seem to cry out its uniqueness at least thats how I
see it, but I am far from being an Aeonium expert. I am using one clone for propagation purposes, the other one
for study and observations. It is too early to have a clear idea of how distinct this hybrid may be (I havent even
seen it flowering) and depending on this it will be (or not) a formal description at some stage. However, by
mid-winter 2010 I will start to distribute this plant under the provisional name Aeonium Rangitoto.
In the meantime enjoy the pictures (some of them already published) I have gathered for this short note and I
will be delighted to hear other opinions as well.

29. One of the

presumed parents
Aeonium haworthii, a
form which looks
pretty much alike the
true species. This plant
used to be fairly
Aeonium colony of
Islington Bay, but not

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30 - 32. The bulk of the plants are made

of Aeonium undulatum, several distinct
forms (I used to name them rusty and
green apple). One of these types is
the other parent of the hybrid which
Giuseppe Tavormina reckons is similar
Unfortunately I have visited Rangitoto
only in high summer, when all Aeonium
plats have reduced rosettes. Almost all
plants I have seen here were single
stemmed. Possibly I few weeks from now
(it is still winter here) I will visit this site
again to see the plants (or whats left of
them) in full vegetation.

33. Aeonium haworthii x Aeonium

undulatum in habitat it is a
gorgeous plant even with reduced
rosettes. All plants I have seen in
Rangitoto were single stemmed. This
plant, re-crossed with Aeonium
haworthii, has generated the exquisite
form I have named Aeonium

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34. Aeonium haworthii x

Aeonium undulatum in
cultivation. This clone
adjusted very well to my
rock garden conditions and
even started branching
after some time. A second
clone which I kept for a
while potted
in my
greenhouse rushed in a
premature flowering and
eventually died without

35. Aeonium haworthii x Aeonium undulatum in cultivation. It is the same clone in mid-spring, only one
month later! Detail of the backside of the leaves. You can also see that it is freely branching.

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36. The inflorescence of Aeonium haworthii x Aeonium undulatum - the clone rushing into a premature
flowering only few months after it has been collected from Rangitoto. It probably couldnt cope with the
greenhouse or potting conditions.

37 38. Aeonium haworthii x Aeonium undulatum flower detail (left)

and a detail of single flowers borne in the axils of the bracts (right).

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habitat. I can recall
seeing just very few
specimens in the

Rangitoto (clone 1) in
cultivation. By the time I
have collected this plant
it was a small single
rosette, but it started to
branch in few months. I
have kept this clone for
the first 8 months potted
in the greenhouse and
remarkably it has
maintained its look from
the wild even few more
months after I have
planted it outdoors. This
clone originates from a
cutting as I couldnt
uproot the plant in
massively damaging the
somewhat lagging in
vegetation behind the
natural habitat) I have
decided to use clone 1

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41. Aeonium Rangitoto (clone 2) in cultivation, 13 months after a single rosette was collected from the Islington
bay colony. Being uprooted with minimal damages I have planted it directly in my rock garden and did have a
good vegetative development indeed. It has lost quite quickly the typical look it had in the wild.

Rangitoto (clone 1) leaf detail in mid
autumn. In strong light it
glaucous; unfortunately
the powder is easily
washed away in heavy

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Additional References:
E. Zimer - The naturalized Aeonium of Rangitoto Island (Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand) (2008) originally published in the International Crassulaceae Network
(ICN) website in English version and in early 2009 in Romanian translation in and ACC Aztekium websites;
E. Zimer - Aeonium of Rangitoto (2009), in CSSNZ Journal, Vol. 62, No. 2 May 2009;
E. Zimer - The succulent corner at Yankee Wharf, Rangitoto Island (2009), in CSSNZ Journal, Vol. 62, No. 4 November 2009 in print;

Further Readings:
Andrea Julian The vegetation pattern of Rangitoto (1992) unpublished PhD thesis;
Craig J. Miller & al. ARK2020: a Conservation Vision for Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands (Journal of The Royal Society of New Zealand, vol. 24, 1994);
S.H. Wotherspoon & J.A. Wotherspoon The Evolution and Execution of a Plan for Invasive Weed Eradication and Control, Rangitoto Island, Hauraki Gulf,
New Zealand (2003).

My Notes:
(1) This is actually an extended version of the article written in August 2009 for the CSSNZ Journal and it also includes a much wider selection of habitat
(2) The flower colour variation blue / white of Agapanthus praecox ssp. orientalis is the result of a simple Mendelian inheritance pattern and therefore
botanically speaking these are not different forms. Of course, by horticultural manipulation and selection the colour variation can be eliminated. However, the
blue gene seems to be dominant as in nature (it is very widely naturalized here in New Zealand) and cultivation the white flowering plants are somewhat less
numerous even in mixed populations; here, probably to be consistent with the uniqueness of this corner, the white flowering form has a much higher occurrence
than the blue one.
(3) Submitted also as a stand alone note to Margrit Bischofberger of International Crassulaceae Network (and sent by her to Ray
Stephenson and Giuseppe Tavormina) which also became few weeks later the core of a short note published with the same illustrations on the ACC Aztekium
website ( in Romanian translation and in English in CSSNZ Journal, Vol. 63, No. 1 (February 2010 in print).
(4) This is the hybrid Giuseppe Tavormina reckons it is very similar to Aeonium Ray Stephenson.

-----------------------------------------------All errors, omissions and misconceptions are mine.

Eduart Zimer, August 2009

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