New Zealand’s coastline is over 15,000 kilometres long so we have heaps of plants that live near our beaches and rocky shores.
Living by the sea isn’t easy for plants; it’s a bit like growing in a desert. They have to survive:
• Salty winds that dry out their leaves.
• Strong wind that can damage them.
• Poor soil that doesn’t contain much food for plants.
• Rocky and sandy places where it's hard to hold on with their roots and which don’t hold onto much water.
• Hot temperatures
Many coastal plants have special adaptations that help them survive:
• They have waterproof, shiny leaves to protect them against drying out in salty winds.
• Their leaves sometimes curl under at the edges so salty water runs off them.
• They have thick, fleshy leaves that can hold water
• They have roots that travel under sand to find water.
• They have thick, tough roots to cling to rocks.
• They grow low to the ground to prevent wind damage.
Cool Coastal Plants
Pingao is golden grass that a very important plant for holding together sand dunes at the beach. It has long, thick roots that travel under the sand to collect and store water. These roots tangle together and hold the sand together so the wind doesn’t blow it away. Pingao is also an important home for the threatened katipo spider which likes to make its web at the bottom of the spiky leaves.
Beach spinach (Kokihi)
Not the same kind of spinach you get from the supermarket but you can still eat it. It grows low along the rocks by the sea and has thick leaves that store water for hot summer days. Captain Cook used beach spinach as part of the greens he fed to his sailors to help stop them from getting scurvy, a nasty disease you get when you don’t have enough Vitamin C.
The Pohutukawa is also known as the New Zealand Christmas Tree because it has bright crimson flowers around Christmas time. It’s thick, tough roots grow around rocks and cliffs and help stop them from eroding away. Pohutukawa flowers also have a sweet nectar that attracts birds like tui, bellbird and kaka as well as geckos and bats. A pohutukawa tree can live up to 1000 years and can grow to up to 20metres high.