The first time I saw Haloragis erecta Wellington bronze (Toatoa) wasn’t in New Zealand but in Oxford, England.
Well, the first time I’m aware of having seen it, that is. I could have seen it in NZ and not noticed it. It is quite easy to not notice Haloragis erecta Wellington bronze. It is a very modest plant.
Oxford Botanic Garden and Arboretum is the oldest botanic garden in the UK, having been established in 1621. And with nearly 6,000 different types of plant, is well worth a visit.
The Walled Garden contains six ‘Geographic Beds,’ with plants from The Mediterranean Basin, South Africa, South America, Japan, and… New Zealand. Which is where I saw Haloragis erecta Wellington bronze with a helpful label to tell me its name.
The botanic garden website says: ‘A characteristic trait of plants from New Zealand is a growth form known as ‘divarication’, in which branches grow in a zig-zag fashion with much reduced leaves.’
Haloragis erecta Wellington bronze is an unassuming plant with small, saw-tooth leaves. It likes dry conditions,
You can grow it from seed, but I found it far from easy to do so. However, if you succeed in getting one to not only germinate but survive, it’s a LOT easier to propagate more from cuttings.
In fact, two small cuttings I took just a few months ago now have tiny flower buds on them. Though I’m not expecting much: the description for the flowers, when they come, is generally ‘insignificant’.
In a matter of weeks, they have gone from a single-stem cutting the length of my thumb to the 2ft that is about their eventual height. This was initially in the greenhouse, but they have been outside in tubs for a few weeks now. (The temperature has been in the mid-upper 20s C every day throughout that time, with hardly any rain).
Sadly, the one specimen of Haloragis erecta Wellington bronze I kept on an indoor window sill has died – the second loss of three I kept indoors over the winter.
I thought the fourth, outdoor specimen had fallen victim to March’s snow, but happily, it came back and is enjoying this long heatwave.
Despite its name and origins, Haloragis erecta Wellington bronze doesn’t feature in either of my well-thumbed New Zealand ‘native plants’ books. It also only pulls up 7,170 results on Google.
UK websites that bother describe it as ‘rarely seen’. While one New Zealand website says it is often mistaken for a weed.
The New Zealand Plant Conservation Network adds that Haloragis erecta is often known as fire weed: ‘A somewhat weedy species which often appears following disturbance within forest and scrub, and which can at times appear within unkept gardens and wasteland within urban areas.’
It all rather goes to prove the idea of the grass being greener on the other side (of the planet)!
One country’s wasteland weed is another’s ‘attractive foliage plant’ and ‘unusual perennial.’