Smith's Bush nature trail
Smith's Bush at the Onewa Domain, Northcote Road is an unusual forest remnant compared with other bush patches in the district as there is no kauri, and although trees were planted, they have not survived. The original forest composition is unclear. Although the sea almost lapped the margin of the forest in the past when it reached towards Shoal Bay, there is no evidence of coastal influence in the vegetation and no pohutukawa. The most conspicuous tree now is kahikatea; most of these are still at the juvenile stage (50-100 years) with only a handful of mature specimens. The oldest trees in the stand are giant puriri that form the Cathedral Grove. Puriri, an important component of the original forest, is not a wetland tree. Furthermore, the topography indicates that Smith's Bush could not have originally been a kahikatea swamp forest as water could not lie here. The combination of previous milling, grazing and later, the introduction of totara, kohekohe, karaka, and matai furhter confuses the picture. Smith's Bush today is a demonstration of the ability of kahikatea to establish more readily than other podocarps (rimu, matai, miro and totara) when an area is left undisturbed. It is not an indication of a wet habitat encouraging this species ahead of others.
The main entrance to Smith's Bush is near the cricket clubrooms, from where you head east along the boardwalk for 30 metres to reach marker number 1 of the nature trail. To follow the marked trail, walk in a clockwise direction around the boardwalk loop.
Smith's Bush is a rare and precious remnant of old-growth forest. Over many years severe damage has been caused by people leaving the paths and destroying native plants. Please stay on the boardwalk to help the forest floor heal, which will assist the recovery of this unique scenic reserve.
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