Leonohebe cupressoides ('Fragrant hebe')
IntroductionLeonohebe cupressoides is a threatened plant found on the eastern side of the South Island's Southern Alps/Kā Tiritiri o te Moana.
Rare species of Leonohebe cupressoides (formally Hebe cupressoides) can be very hard to find. But the plant has the virtue of being easily distinguishable with its fragrant scent, greyish-green colour and softly rounded canopy shape.
Leonohebe cupressoides has declined to such an extent that only four of its 19 known populations comprise more than 100 mature plants. A DOC Recovery Plan has been actioned to address this decline.
Leonohebe cupressoides is a greyish-green shrub forming a symmetrical rounded bush 1 to 2 m tall, with small and scale-like leaves. Flowering is from November to February, with flowers occuring in groups of 6-8. These vary in colour from white to a pale bluish-purple.
Habitat and range
Leonohebe cupressoides is found in the South Island, from Marlborough to Otago.
In the past it probably had a widespread, but patchy distribution. More recently it has undergone a significant decline, especially in the north of its range. The greatest concentration now occurs in the Mackenzie Basin and the Shotover River Valley.
Leonohebe cupressoides occurs across a range of sites. It can be found on areas that have been recently disturbed by flooding and slips. It also occurs on more stable sites such as rock outcrops and bouldery moraine. Leonohebe cupressoides has not been recorded under closed forest and appears to do poorly in open grassland.
Habitat depletion appears to be the key factor in the decline of Leonohebe cupressoides, and agriculture and human-induced fire are the main causes of its depletion.
Leonohebe cupressoides does not compete well with introduced plants for nutrients and this limits seed germination.
Grazing stock and introduced pests such as rabbits and hares eat juvenile plants.
Past conservation efforts
These have focussed on:
- Surveying known populations.
- Identifying new populations and trying to protect them.
- Establishing new plants in the wild.
- Research-by-management trials focussing on the effects of grazing annimals, and monitoring natural regeneration.
Recovery Plan in action
While past conservation efforts have helped understand Leonohebe cupressoides' ecology, there are still areas of uncertainty. These include rates of turnover and factors that limit the growth of new plants.
A recovery plan, approved in 2000, sets in place steps to promote recovery of the species.
The long-term vision of this plan is: "To ensure viable populations of Leonohebe cupressoides are restored in the wild throughout the natural range of this species."
You can help
DOC welcomes any comments or suggestions you may have about the conservation of Leonohebe cupressoides. Contact any DOC office.