New Zealand Mountain Flora v3

Version 3: Full Images and Text

Cover design 1. New Zealand Mountain Flora by EC Harris. ‘Suggestion for cover, which might be blue and gold’.

Cover Design 2. New Zealand Mountain Flora by EC Harris.

We know where the snow lies deepest,
We know where the storm clouds rise,
Where the mist comes down from the mountain
And the treasure that all men prize.

New Zealand Mountain Flora.

I can recall the time when my idea of a mountain was of huge rocks piled up wedged together, dreary to behold and impossible to climb.

In those days our splendid Alpine ranges were known only to a few hardy explorers, now they are visited by thousands. Great was my surprise when first I realized that the mountains were not all storm swept, snow-clad giant rocks and stones, but that their rugged sides were often clothed with vegetation, grass, moss, tiny flowers and hardy shrubs, while in sheltered places and valleys a more luxuriant growth springs up, larger flowers and magnificent leaves charm the eye and cause one to marvel how they can exist on such scanty soil; a botanist would understand, but how few of us are botanists, and even when described in plain language a vivid imagination only could picture them as they are.

During a visit to Taranaki I went to the Egmont ranges and found a number of flowers, Ourisia macrophilla, Anthericum Hookeri, Everlastings and others. I camped for five days at the foot of Mount Egmont.

The forest flowers were nearly over but in the adjoining scrub were many flowering plants, the most beautiful of these, Ourisia macrophylla grew plentifully under the bushes and in sheltered rocky crevices. Farther on among the tussock grass and stones grew quantities of yellow Ranunculus with unusually fine glossy leaves. Down the steep sides of the mountain grew masses of white everlastings, pale-blue harebells, small white celmesias and many other lovely flowers. I was fortunate to be able to paint then while fresh, and to see for myself how they grew. Since that time I have added continually to my collection, every season bringing something new.

I have camped on the Dun Mountain line and found many interesting plants on and near the mineral belt. Also at a lovely mountain lake where Alpine Flora abounded.

Thus year by year the number and variety of specimens had gone on increasing until it seemed a pity that such a collection should be hidden away in portfolios known only to a few especially as yet, no one has published drawings devoted entirely to New Zealand Mountain Flowers. With this idea I have worked for some years, and have now I hope, completed sufficient illustrations to be of interest to those who love to explore the mountain regions, and to remind them of flowers they may have passed on their way, and to those also who never expect to behold these children of the mists and snows in their native haunts.

My sincere thanks are due to many kind friends who have sent me specimens of Alpine and Sub-Alpine species – the late Professor Kirk, Messrs R.I. Kingsley, D.W. Bryant, W. Townson, F.G. Gibbs, and others.

Mount Cook Lily

Mount Cook Lily.

An erect handsome coriacous plant 2 to 4 ft. high, with branched many-flowered stem. This splendid plant when in full flower with its large leaves and pure white blossoms sometimes 4 inches in diameter, is a sight never to be forgotten by those fortunate enough to behold it.

It flourishes by mountain streams and moist gullies, and ascends from 2000 to 4000 feet. “Near the Hermitage and open glades of Mt. Cook are masses of these lovely flowers.”

This and Ranunculus Traversii are the only known Ranunculi with peltate leaves.

Middle Island, Milford Sound, Southern Alps, Lyall and Otago.

“Water Lily” of the shepherds.

Ourisa Macrophylla


Mountain primula. This exquisite plant with its rings of pure white flowers and bright green leaves, is the most beautiful of the species, growing on mountainous parts of New Zealand sea level, 4500 feet.

Ourisia Macrophylla I found growing on Mount Egmont and the ranges. It has also been found on the Ruahine range and Upper Wairau. The plant from which these flowers were drawn was about three feet in height.

First discovered by Dieffenbach.



  1. “I send you some specimens I gathered on Mt. Rochfort. The large white flowered one is Gentiana obovata (new species). It grows at an elevation of 3000 ft. and the radical leaves are like rosettes, and several stems grow from one root, forming a most beautiful clump.” Gentian obovate  now G. Townsoni.
  2. Veronica buxifolia. An abundant shrub on the mountain ranges of the North and South Island. Alt. 2000 to 4000 ft. but descends to sea-level in Stewart Island and George Sound.
Olearia and Veronica


A large New Zealand and Australian genus. In New Zealand alone there are 35 named varieties, and from their abundance of flowers form a conspicuous feature in the Mountain scenery.

  1. O Nitida, a small tree abundant throughout the Northern and Middle Islands, Tongariro, Mount Egmont, Ruahine and Nelson mountain ranges. Alt. 4000.


  1. The Veronica in New Zealand is remarkable for the variety and beauty of its species, growing frequently on the edge of the forest of mountain ranges. Veronica laevis, a small hardy plant with numerous delicate white flowers.
Flowers from Mount Egmont


  1. Ranunculus pinguis. 2. Fostera tenella. 3. Celmisia longifolia 4. Wahlenbergia gracilis 5. Lobelia.

The mountain looked down from her realm of snow
On the stately forest that grew below
With ferns and blossoms sweet

She cried to the forest, “Oh, trees come higher
I would that your branches and leaves were nigher
A mantle across my feet.”

Then the forest trembled and whispered low
We fear the might of the wind and the snow
Would doom us to death or retreat.

With a timid step went the little flowers
But the mountain sent down her vapoury showers
And wrapped them round.

They broidered her robe as with silken sheen
They smiled up to Heaven the rocks between
And bloomed on their vantage ground.



Olearia Colensoi. A stout branching shrub with thick rigid leaves. The specimen drawn is from the slopes of Mount Egmont, it also is found on many of the North and Middle Island mountains.

Ranunculus Navicola


North Island. This fine plant grows near the perpetual snow on Mount Egmont, but I found some very handsome specimens growing lower down the mountain side. They also have been found on Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, and Ruapehu.

Erect, branched from 2 – 3 feet high, bearing numerous golden yellow flowers.

First discovered by Dieffenbach.

Gnaphalium bellidiodes and Lycopodium billardiierii

Gnaphalium bellidioides.


This beautiful little flower with its crisp white petals and leaves silvery underneath and bright green on the upper side is conspicuous from its abundance in the Alpine districts of the Northern and Middle Islands, ascending to 5000 feet.

Lycopodium billardieri.

  1. Scariosum – both from Dun Mt.

Annotation in pencil: What is the golden flower?

Various. Callixene parviflora. Veronica. Euphasia cuneata. Celmisia laricifolia.

  1. Callixene parviflora – common in all mountain districts and damp forest ascending to 4000 feet.
  2. Veronica from Mount Egmont, pale lilac.
  3. Euphasia cuneata – a small annual with numerous flowers white-striped with purple – from Mount Egmont, and from East Cape southward. Common through the Middle Island.
  4. Celmesia laricifolia. Gordon’s Nob and other Nelson mountains, alt. 4000 feet.

Mount Torlesse 4500 – 5000.

The mountain looks down on the river,
And the river flows on to the sea
In their grandeur and beauty for ever
As long as this planet shall be.

But the forest that grew by the river,
And the flowers on the mountain that bloomed
Will they gladden our hearts for ever
Or pass like a race that is doomed. [pencilled in question mark]

Celmesia Holosericea

Celmesia Holosericea.

This beautiful Celmesia is found at Dusky Bay, Port Preservation and on the West coast of Otago.

From the sea-level it ascends to 4000 ft. and may therefore be classed among the mountain flowers.

In mountainous parts the seeds of plants are often washed down by the rain and so grow on lower levels, but are seldom as fine as among their native snows.



A large genus, common in temperate climates, of which there are twelve named varieties in New Zealand, probably more ascending to 7000 ft. Flowers usually white, but sometimes pink.

  1. Ligusticum intermedium, from Milford Sound.
  2. Ligusticum aromaticum, from the Dun Mountain, Nelson
  3. Ligusticum piliferum.
  4. _________ (in pencil) Mount Arthur.

Annotation in pencil: ‘? Geum parviflorum see Plate 15’

Helichrysum grandiceps.

Helichrysum grandiceps.

There are several varieties of New Zealand Edelweiss formerly included in the Gnaphaliums but now in the genus Helichrysum. Of these grandiceps and Leontopodium are nearest to the Swiss Edelweiss.

The specimen brought to me had spots like brown velvet sprinkled with specks of gold. The leaves and stem and petals of flowers all covered with white cotton wool as if equipped for Alpine regions.


Enwrapped in garments soft and warm,
As robes if eider down,
And velvet caps, all starred with gold,
Serve for a regal crown.

Straight to the skies their upward gaze
Unchecked, unblenched they turn,
As if to reach some loftier plane
These gentle flowers yearn.

  1. Mount Patriarch.


Rubus parvus- Mountain bramble, growing in mountain valleys, creeping along the ground among the moss, lowers white, petals larger than those of Rubus Australis

Senecio Lyallii.


  1. Senecio Lyallii, a handsome plant abundant on the Alpine ranges of the Middle Island. Flowers usually bright yellow.
  2. Ranunculus insignis.
Vernoica Macrantha


  1. Veronica macrantha, a short erect shrub with pure white flowers and glossy leaves, ascending rom 2500 – 5000t. Southern Alps and Nelson mountain ranges
  2. Geum uniflora. Pink, usually white.
  3. Small trees and flowers on mountain slopes.
Gaya Lyallii.

Gaya Lyalli

Gaya Lyalli formerly Plagianthus, a small branching tree 20 to 30 feet high. In mountain districts throughout the Middle Island from Nelson to Milford Sound, and Western districts of Otago.

“Diciduous at and above 3000 ft. but evergreen below that level. (Hooker)”

I found these beautiful trees in full bloom at Milford and George Sound early in January, and one small tree white with lowers at Lake Rotoiti (Nelson) at the end of January.
The leaves and flowers are sometimes larger than those drawn.

Maori name- Whauwhau.

Gaultheria / Snowberry


A large and varied genus. Gaultheria Antipoda, a rigid bush, erect or prostrate. Those I gathered were growing close to the ground with numerous lovely white berries.


Oh, hardy, modest snow-berries,
So close to earth ye grow
Amid the yellow lycopod,
And harebells bending low.

Ye gladden all who on thee gaze
Just as a friendly smile
Will cheer the toilers’ upward path
And shorten many a mile.

Olearia Insignis


A robust spreading shrub from 1 – 6 ft. high, South Island, Marlborough southwards, sea level 4000 ft.

It flowers in December and January. An exceedingly handsome plant, unlike other Olearias.



Common in temperate regions. In New Zealand they vary in height from 18 in. to 3 ft. Geum Magellanicum has large handsome leaves, and numerous flowers of a beautiful butter-cup yellow.

I found a number of plants growing along the shores of Lake Rotoiti, Nelson district.

Geum parviflorum is a much smaller plant, flowers yellow, sometimes white.

Alt. 2000 to 5000 feet.

Various: Gnaphalium bellidioides, Ligusticum aromaticum, Cyperus ustulatus.

  1. Gnaphalium bellidioides.
  2. Ligusticum aromaticum.
  3. Cyperus ustulatus.

Let us camp on the hill-side
The valley below
The mountains afar
With their clouds and their snow.

The blue sky above us
The stream flowing near
With our pipe and our dog,
And our comrade so dear.

We’ll dream that the way
Unto Paradise lies
Where yonder green hill
Meets the clear shining skies.

Athericum Hookeri


A large genus common to temperate zones. It is frequent in mountain districts of North and South Island.
I found numerous very fine plants on Mount Egmont ranges, while those brought me from Mount Arthur Table-land were much smaller.
The flower is bright yellow.

Mount Cook Lily

Mount Cook Lily.

I have been induced to give two illustrations of Ranunculus Lyallii, as I find that the flowers vary in size in different localities or lower levels.
I have frequently tried to grow the plants but always observed that the leaves grow smaller and smaller every year until at last they faded away altogether.

Speak to me, mountain hoary,
Tell me thine old world story
The secret of thy birth.
Say in what ages past
Thy giant rocks were cast
Upon this trembling earth.
Did’st thou from atoms rise
To greet the morning skies
A form of strength and might
While earth in darkness reigned
E’er sun or moon had deigned
To shed their wondrous light.

Various: Ranunculus insignis, Senicio lautus, Geum albiflorum.

  1. Ranunculus insignis. A very beautiful, erect, robust plant, often 4 ft. high, branched. Leaves from 4 – 8 in. broad, stalks numerous, with golden yellow flowers. Northern Island, Ruahine range, Tongariro, and Hikurangi.
  2. Senicio lautus, a variable branched herb ascending the mountains to 6000 ft.
  3. Geum albiflorum.
  4. Lake Rotoiti (Nelson).


  1. Thelymitra uniflora, from the Maungatepu.
  2. Thelymitra pulchella.
  3. Myosotis Monroi. There are many varieties of forget-me-nots in New Zealand, white, blue, pale and bright yellow.
  4. Mt. Nugget
Aciphylla Squarrosa


A remarkable genus of which there are five varieties from nine feet to less than a foot high. It is confined to New Zealand and Australia.

Aciphylla squarrosa from Mount Egmont about a foot and a half high.

The Spear-grass.

A warrior bold is the spear-grass straight
He thrusts out his lance with a laugh elate
Let no one pass by for unhappy the fate
Of those who discover my prickles too late
Ho, Ho, laughed the spear-grass bold.

Senecio Lautus


An exceedingly variable plant found on many mountain ranges in both North and South Islands.




  1. A most singular plant growing among the rocks and dry shingle slopes on the mountain in the form of a rosette of dark olive leaves, in the centre of which is a circle of pure white sweet-scented flowers.

Middle Island, Alt. 3000 to 6500 ft.
Wairau Valley, Mount Torlesse and others.

Notothlaspi Australe.

  1. Differing from Rosulatum, having numerous clusters of flowers. Abundant on Nelson mountain ranges from 2500 to 5000 ft.
Celmesia Coriacea


A very handsome plant abundant on the mountains from Nelson to Dusky Bay. Leaves 10 – 12 inches long, bright with silvery cottony hairs, the underside of the leaf buff colour with thick white tomentum.

Flowers white, from 1 ½ – 3 inches in diameter. It is often called the leather plant of the colonist.