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The Propagation of NZ Native PlantsBOOK REVIEWS

The Propagation of New Zealand Native Plants

By Lawrie Metcalf
Published by Godwit Press, New Zealand

Reviewed by Mike Orchard, Grounds Superintendent,
Victoria University of Wellington


The Propagation of New Zealand Plants encompasses a wealth of information in a format with which readers of Lawrie Metcalf's previous books will be familiar. Aspects of native plant propagation covered are:

  • structures and equipment needed
  • propagation techniques
  • harvesting and storing seed
  • diseases and pests, and finally
  • comprehensive notes on the propagation of selected native plant genera and species.

In common with most floras, New Zealand has its easier species to propagate and its seemingly impossible cases. Historically, there has been a lack of accessible practical information on native plant propagation. Through this publication, the author has enabled more ready access to available knowledge for amateurs and professionals alike.

The text is readable and full of titbits of practical information that are drawn from years of experience. The clear descriptions of general propagation techniques are practical and achievable, often with the minimum of specialist equipment. Propagation techniques include tried-and-true traditional methods and practical innovations such as bog and scree methods.

Some typographic errors are noticeable. For example, the fern prothallus diagram (page 23) has the antheridia and rhizoid labels transposed. Generally, the line drawings and photographs are of an excellent technical standard.

The real pith of this publication is in its systematic treatment of individual species and genera. Details such as the use of pre-sowing treatments and special sowing techniques and the most viable forms of vegetative propagation are given for each plant species listed.

It is refreshing to see plant provenance being dealt with as an issue in this book. However, the potential conflict between garden cloning and genetic diversity is only briefly touched upon. It is essential that environmental issues such as provenance and genetic diversity become a part of the way of thinking of the native plant propagator and gardener.

As acknowledged by the author, there is a need for further research on the propagation of native plants. However, this book certainly provides a valuable baseline of information that can only grow as the landscape potential and ecological values of New Zealand plants become more widely recognised.

I consider 'The Propagation of New Zealand Native Plants' a very worthy investment for the native plant enthusiast as well as the horticulturist.

New Zealand Garden Journal: Journal of the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture 1996 1(1): 24-25

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