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Brachyglottis: Name comes from the Greek words brachus meaning "short" and glottis meaning "the vocal apparatus of the larynx"
Rautini, Chatham Island Christmas tree
Current Threat Status
2012 - Threatened - Nationally Vulnerable
Previous Threat Status
2009 - Threatened - Nationally Critical
2004 - Threatened - Nationally Endangered
2012 - CD, IE, RF, RR
2009 - CD, IE
Brachyglottis huntii (F.Muell.) B.Nord.
Large spreading grey-green shrub inhabiting peatlands of the Chatham Islands. Twigs brittle and bearing leaf scars. Leaves 5-10cm long, narrow, rolled, thin, grey-green, pale underneath, shiny, margin wavy. Flowers with many radiating yellow petals, clustered together.
Vascular - Native
Senecio huntii F.Muell.
Endemic to the Chatham Islands. Found on both Chatham Island and Pitt Island. It was once much more common and widespread on Chatham Island but has declined seriously over the last century. On Pitt Island it is still quite widespread; expanding where stock and feral animals are in low numbers, but diminishing elsewhere.
Brachyglottis huntiii prefers frequently disturbed and/or early successional habitats, such as those found along stream and river sides, open shrubland, drier swamps, and along ridge crests. It is usually found growing on permanently moist forest and restiad peats and cannot tolerate protracted periods of drought, or heavy shade.
Aromatic, small woody tree up to 6 x 6 m. Bark grey, flaking usually in small shards. Branches stout, spreading, usually bearing numerous leaf scars, leaf toward apex, dead leaves long persistent. Leaves 70-180 x 20-40 mm, ovate, elliptic-lanceolate, grey green, apex subacute, lamina entire or finely toothed in upper third; buds and emergent leaves viscid, resinous, rather aromatic, initially densely clad on both surfaces with fulvous tomentum, becoming glabrescent with age. Inflorescences in dense, terminal panicles, subtended by leaves, all parts viscous, resinous. Pedicels stout, 5-15 mm long, densely glandular pubescent. Capitula 20-30 mm diam., involucral bracts 10-12(-15), narrow-oblong, obtuse to subacute, grey-green, glandular on under sides, ciliate on margins, apex surmounted by a conspicuous tuft of hairs. Ray-florets 15-20, ligules c. 10 mm long, yellow, broad, recurving with age. Cypsela (seeds) 1.5-1.8 mm long, narrow-oblong, pale brown to brown, grooved, glabrescent; pappus-hairs 5-7 mm long, off-white, slender, distinctly barbellate.
Brachyglottis stewartiae (J.B.Armstr.) B.Nord. is related but the leaves in this species have dark glossey upper surfaces, and pure white undersides (due to the dense covering of fine, appressed, hairs)
November - February
Main Flower Colour
Late summer and early autumn
Easily grown from fresh seed and semi-hardwood cuttings. However, plants can be difficult to maintain. In cultivation they are prone to sudden collapse from such soil and water borne diseases as phytophora, verticillium and fusarium wilt. This species does best planted in a semi-shaded site or in a permanently moist, deep peaty soil, with a south-facing aspect. Once planted it should not be disturbed. In ideal conditions it is fast growing and will flower within 1-2 years from seed. This is a naturally short-lived species so it is wise to maintain young stock for replacement of older trees.
Brachyglottis huntii was once much more common and widespread on Chatham Island but has declined seriously over the last century. On Pitt Island it is still quite widespread; expanding where stock and feral animals are in low numbers, but diminishing elsewhere. Threats are myriad and include habitat destruction; browsing and trampling by cattle, sheep, pigs and possums. While fire can destroy plants the disturbance caused can also provide fresh sites for seedlings to colonise.
2n = 60
Where To Buy
Occasionally available from specialist native plant nurseries
Notes on status
Recent reports of the sudden collapse of apparently healthy trees are suggestive of such soil borne pathogens as phytophora and verticillium wilt. There is some evidence to suggest that the species is self-incompatible, because seed collected from isolated trees has very poor germination. This has important implications for future management, particularly on main Chatham, where the species is now seriously threatened, and often represented on parts of the island by isolated individuals.
References and further reading
de Lange, P.J.; Heenan, P.B.; Norton, D.A.; Rolfe, J.R.; Sawyer, J.W.D. 2010: Threatened Plants of New Zealand. Christchurch, Canterbury University Press.
Thorsen, M. J.; Dickinson, K. J. M.; Seddon, P. J. 2009. Seed dispersal systems in the New Zealand flora. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 2009 Vol. 11 No. 4 pp. 285-309
This page last updated on 10 May 2014