• Smallwings Luke

Beekeeping Grounds: The Manawatu Gorge/Te Apiti

I’ve lived in Palmerston North for practically my whole life. I've played in its parks and swam in its rivers, its where I’ve grown up. With my father in the military he was a fairly keen outdoors-man and would get my brother and I into the bush whenever he could.

The gorge walk was a staple in our family and would walk the track every so often, taking in the natural beauty of the bush, the sights and sounds one can only truly experience in a New Zealand bush walk.

At no point however did I think I would ever work a job where the bush would become a vital part of what I did.

So if you haven’t already guessed, todays post is going to give a little bit more information on the gorge, its history and its inhabitants. Just to give a better idea of what its like where our bees are.

Geography and History

The Manawatu Gorge is the scenic divide between two mountain ranges (Tararua and Ruahine) that border the Manawatu Region. It is a magnificent geographical structure formed over thousands of years by the Manawatu River. It is the only place in New Zealand where a river begins its journey on the opposite side of the main divide to where it joins the sea.

With its native bush and wildlife, Te Apiti is a time capsule that preserves the bush that once covered the Manawatu, a place frozen in time.

The name Te Apiti, meaning ‘the narrow passage’ was bestowed upon the Manawatu Gorge by the Rangitane tribe, the tangata whenua. The passage was crucial as it connected eastern and western parts of their 700-year old border. Before the road was built, local Maori would haul their canoes upstream through the rapids of the Manawatu River, which they named Te Au-Rere-a-Te Tonga, meaning ‘the rushing current of the south’.

There is a large reddish rock in the Ruahine ranges just above the river named ‘Te Ahu A Turanga imua’ meaning the sacred place of Turanga, who was an ancient ancestor of the Rangitane people both east and west of the Gorge. Legend has it that the rock always remains above water even when the river experiences its highest floods. Its colour is said to change in intensity if a prominent member of the local Rangitane tribe dies or blood is shed. For this reason, Maori travelling by canoe would recite karakia to ensure their safety when passing

Flora & Fauna

Te Apiti - Manawatu Gorge is a diverse forest ecosystem in a dramatic landscape, right at our backdoor. It is a place where people from across New Zealand to connect with our precious natural environment. The Gorge is home to many native animals and unusual plant communities. Taonga species such as titipounamu (riflemen), karearea (NZ falcon), kereru (NZ wood pigeon), giant maidenhair fern and northern rata are found here. To describe all the different Flora and fauna would be multiple posts itself, so here is a little info on some of my favorites.

Kawakawa: A common shrub to small tree in the forest, notable for its shiny heart shaped leaves which are often riddled with holes caused by the native looper caterpillar. The peppery-tasting leaves are poisonous to most other insects. Kawakawa has separate male and female flower spikes often paired together that resemble slender, erect candles. The fruits are small, fleshy and orange-yellow. The leaves have a long history of medicinal use and are used with traditional practitioners in preparing rongoa (medicine). Chewing on a leaf also helps to freshen breath.

Northern Rata: The northern rata is one New Zealand’s endemic forest giants. This tree can grow up to 30m tall, with a trunk up to 2m in diameter. Metrosideros means ‘iron-hearted’ referring to the immense hardness and density of the timber. It can be common in lower-altitude forests throughout the North Island, and in the north of the South Island. Northern rata can cross with pohutukawa to form hybrids between the two species. The flowers are bright red to dark-crimson and appear late spring through early summer. The fruit is a woody capsule, up to about 6 mm across, which releases very fine hair-like seeds when ripe. Māori had many medicinal uses made from different parts of the northern rata, including relief from ringworm, aches and pains, wounds, cold/flu, toothaches, sore throats and bruising.

Our Land

This is just one of the beautiful places we are luck enough to keep our bees. This unique land is vast and different all over and these differences are what make our honey so amazing. Over the next few weeks I will hope to bring you more about the land we are so lucky to have. Until next time, Bee good.

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