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NZ Plants




  • Using radiocarbon and other dating methods, Richard Holdaway claims that the Polynesian rat (kiore) arrived during this period presumably with early Polynesian explorers.


  • Taupo eruption, the largest to occur anywhere in the world within the last 7,000 years, releases hot pyroclastic flows of pumice and gases that devastate the central North Island, destroying the rimu (Dacrydium cupressinum), beech (Nothofagus spp.) and hardwood forest cover. This is replaced by bracken, tussock and scrub. Soil changes caused by the eruption result in the new forest often being dominated by mataī (Prumnopitys taxifolia) and tōtara (Podocarpus totara) within 200 years.


  • Polynesian settlement commences with the introduction of kūmara (sweet potato, Ipomoea batatas), uwhi (yam, Dioscorea spp), taro (Colocasia esculenta) aute (paper mulberry, Broussonetia papyrifera), hue (gourd, Lagenaria spp), kiore (Polynesian rat) and dog (kurī). Moa are extensively hunted as a major source of protein.
  • Approximately 75-80% of New Zealand is covered in forest.


  • There is a sizeable Māori population on the North Island with the spread of agriculture.


  • A major rhyolitic outburst from the Tarawera volcanic complex covers over 30,000 km 2 of the northern and eastern North Island (Kaharoa tephra).


  • It is estimated that only about 53% of the country is now covered with forest because of repeated use of fire by Māori to clear the land. Forest is replaced by tussock grassland, bracken and light scrub particularly in the eastern South Island and central North Island. Habitat loss combined with over hunting severely affects both plant and animal life.


  • Moa are probably extinct by now. One consequence of this is the continued development of Māori gardening to provide an alternative food supply. 'Wild' plants such as karaka (Corynocarpus laevigatus), tī kōuka (cabbage tree, Cordyline australis) and aruhe (bracken fern, Pteridium esculentum) begin to be semi-cultivated. The extinction of the moa also results in the decline of the dispersal of large-fruited seeds.