Before I even arrived in Wellington, I knew that my apartment was very near the Botanic Gardens and from Google Earth saw that they were beautiful! I imagined (and since have been able to experience) walking through the gardens on my way to Victoria University. What I did not realize, until my arrival, was the massive amount of non-native species featured in the Botanic Gardens! I was so surprised from a nation that is VERY concerned about bringing in non-native species and pests and have hefty fines for anyone that does and even had my own hiking boots sprayed upon inspection in customs that there were non-native species featured here! Huge redwood trees and sequoias, oak trees, camellias, hydrangeas, maple trees and rhododendrons! Mind you, these gardens are beautiful and these plants are spectacular, however they are not native species! Interspersed amongst these exotic plants are the native ferns and trees, but I was so surprised with the flora!
I was impressed with James Hector having the foresight to preserve the area in 1869 and then most of the pine trees were planted in the 1870’s as part of the redevelopment and beautification projects of the time. There’s even a placard about one of the men that planted the pines every day and his sweet wife would bring him his lunch to eat each day in the gardens over many years. And not until one day when my host family noted the “Otari-Wilton Bush” down the hill north of my apartment did I know that there was a native forest preserve! Otari is a Maori word for “place of snares” for the good bird hunting that used to occur here and Job Wilton is the farmer that dedicated these 100 hectares to being preserved in their native state in 1860. Fortunately, the City of Wellington continues to preserve this area and has wonderful trails throughout. There are two groves of original trees with one holding the oldest tree in Wellington – a rimu tree estimated to be 800 years old! Below are some of my favorite pictures from Otari-Wilton. The moral of the story is that my apartment sits between two of the most spectacular natural areas in Wellington, and I have had the pleasure of enjoying them both!
And the beautiful Karori Cemetery that backs up to Otari-Wilton and has 83,000 people buried over 40 hectares of land since 1891. There are many buried from the wars, a tragic shipwreck in 1909 and some of the members of Shackleton’s Expedition to Antarctica (carpenter Harry McNeish and a replica of his cat, Mrs. Chippy that had to be killed on the expedition when the ship was lost in the ice). Interesting history! Also, many of the graves are from the from the 1918 influenza epidemic in New Zealand that killed 8,600 people.