As far back as 1899, there was concern...
“With regard to complaints as to the destruction of ferns and native bush in Cemetery Gully, the sub committee recommends that the cemetery trustees and the police be communicated with, and that the society should assist in any way that might be necessary to remedy the crying evil.”
- from a report by the Auckland Scenery Conservation Society October 1899
The lower sections of this park (which were never used as a cemetery), are more dominated by native plant species – some replanted here, as early as the 1950s, others occurring naturally.
This small urban forest has some botanical items of note. There are some of the biggest titoki (Alectryon exelsus) and rewarewa (Knightia exelsa) to be found in Auckland city here. This secluded site is suited to titoki, which need well-drained soils and shelter from the wind. Rewarewa also prefer well-drained, friable soil – but will search for plenty of sunlight.
Kohekohe trees (Dysoxylum spectabile) in the gully show extensive possum damage – the leaves are especially palatable to them. It is remarkable that these introduced wild pest animals are found in this urban setting.
There are old specimens of porokaiwhiri (pigeonwood Hedycarya arborea) here too. They are recognisable by their coppicing habit, which produces straight stems of soft white wood.
Old pūriri trees are a feature of this native forest. Their name is made up of pū (tree trunk) and riri (a battle), referring to the holes bored into the trees by pepe (pūriri moths).
These species all provide food for native birds, especially tui, and kererū, the New Zealand pigeon – meaning the Symonds Street cemetery could become an inner-city wildlife sanctuary.
These two ponga (tree ferns Cyathea dealbata) are growing in very different ways, despite being exactly the same species.
The one growing at a sharp angle has been forced to do so, in a search for sunlight for its fronds in an already crowded forest canopy.