Research is a core role of botanic gardens worldwide. Here at the Gardens we have been reviewing how research is conducted and ways we can facilitate research. One of our research priorities is looking into how wild flower meadows could be encouraged in areas where closely mown turf is not essential such as less visited areas. Mowing is expensive and can have significant environmental costs associated with carbon and petrol emissions. Mowing is also a relevant topic in wider Auckland Council with many parks reducing mowing due to costs, and wanting to know what they can doto make low-mow or no-mow sites appealing to visitors and recreationalists. Much of the research around mowing and meadows comes from the Northern hemisphere which can be difficult adapt to New Zealand environments, therefore it is timely that this research is being undertaken.
Curtis is a University of Auckland masters student who has recently begun the meadows trial on the Magnolia lawn. He has established 24 plots and will investigate the effects of different mowing regimes and the use of sawdust, sugar and wood chips has on the soil fertility and the plant composition in our lawns. He is modelling his research on the wild flower meadow at Waikumete cemetery that comprises exotic plants, native plants and orchids. It is only mown once a year which is appealing to those wanting to reduce their mowing regimes. Curtis will attempt to determine the relationships between the plants at Waikumete and the environmental conditions to try and identify the key factors that drive this unique ecosystem.
This research is based on the hypothesis that lower soil fertility, particularly low nitrogen, will increase and maintain the diversity of plants growing in a meadow. In the library we will hold a collection of pressed specimens of those plants growing in the lawns at the Gardens which will provide a useful tool for identification of plants found in the trial. Curtis has a year to work on his Masters thesis, but ABG hopes the project will continue with support from staff and Curtis’ supervisor, Bruce Burns. Curtis has kindly received funding from the Friends of the Botanic Gardens and Waikumete cemetery.