Finding a small forest long-since built over
June 9, 2024 12:16 PM   Subscribe

A local twitter friend who is a geologist, archaeologist and historian has uncovered the history of a former isolated native forest that is now a town. It's quite a tale from an accidental find of an 1847 map with a coloured patch representing a forest, to a 3D virtual forest in Blender matched to an 1859 watercolour painting.

The forest appears to be have been an isolated patch of about 2.2 Hectares in a sea of tussock grass - mostly various related species of this tussock Chionochloa. The trees were most probably kahikatea, a podocarp (seed with a foot) that were viewed as nearly useless by European settlers until "until it was discovered that it did not taint food" , thus much of Aotearoa New Zealand's magnificent forests became packaging.

Outside of a fifth of the land surface that is National Park, healthy native forest is increasingly rare, occurring as patches of a few kilometres to a few hundred square metres - staggering on as remnants. Here's WUX (facebook video) speaking from within another podocarp remnant, this time totora in the Wairarapa in the North Island. WUX makes a lot of content on NZ native forests, Māori culture and history ... and Māori food as he's a chef with a food truck in Masterton.
posted by unearthed (4 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
This is really interesting work, thank you unearthed (eponysterical?)
posted by jokeefe at 3:09 PM on June 9

Aw, that's a great story.
I like it when there is cross-over and complementarity between The Arts and Science; and who doesn't love a [old] map. We bought 16 acres = 7 ha. of farmlet in 1996 and have been getting settled in ever since. Early on, we were told that one of the 3 ac = 1ha. fields was known as "Crowe's". A few years later Ordnance Survey Ireland digitized and GPS-coordinated all their maps going back to the 1st survey in the 1830s and '40s. On the 1840 survey, a black rectangle indicated a building with a roof set back into Crowe's but adjacent to the lane which continues to serve our house. By 1890 that cabin [presumably occupied by Mr and Mrs Crowe and their offspring up until the famine] had disappeared from the survey. In 2007,8,9 we planted an acre of broadleaf trees at that end of Crowe's and, in one place only, turned up a lot of potsherds. We had discovered Crowe's midden. You could almost hear Mrs Crowe calling the kids in for dinner.
posted by BobTheScientist at 3:11 PM on June 9 [5 favorites]

eponysterical? almost - I resisted and wrote 'uncovered', my friend did the unearthing.

Your place in Ireland sounds amazing BobTheScientist. I find it endlessly fascinating that the more one looks at a piece of land the more one finds. What species are your acre of broadleaf trees?
posted by unearthed at 1:29 AM on June 10

Trees?: Mostly oak Quercus robur; with some ash Fraxinus excelsior (badly shook, many dead, from the dieback); sweet chestnut Castanea sativa; horse chestnut Aesculus hippocastanum; holly Ilex aquifolium; birch Betula spp. We also popped in Scot's Pinus sylvestris, larch Larix europaeus the second winter. All surrounded by a hedge of hawthorn Crataegus monogyna, blackthorn Prunus spinosa and hazel Corylus avellana. There's a handful of bird-sown wild cherry Prunus avium; elder Sambucus nigra and sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus. When Kiwi Seán the Forester came for first selective thinning in 2022, he suggested that, by 2172, there would only be ~six mighty oaks filling the space and we'd all be forgotten like the Crowes. The opposite of the Dunedin story.
posted by BobTheScientist at 12:57 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]

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