Native plants and trees

From forests to sea, Wellington has special plants and trees that build our capital's character.

Wellington's green giants

Standing in the remaining forests of Wellington today offers a glimpse of what we once had. Large native trees such as rimu and northern rātā once towered over a canopy of tawa and kohekohe, with a rich and diverse blanket of ferns and mosses beneath. These forests used to cover most of the region.

There are still pockets of original podocarp/broadleaf forest in Wellington you can visit with 20 to 50 metre-high trees that can live for 1000 years.

Keep an eye out for tawa, with fruit that looks like big black jelly beans that only kererū are capable of swallowing. You can also see the kōtukutuku (New Zealand tree fuchsia), which is the world's tallest fuchsia and has unusual blue pollen.

Resilient coastal vegetation

Wellington's rugged coastline is home to unique plants that help protect the land and are champions at withstanding the waves and wind.

On coastal dunes, the side closest to the sea (foredune) is home to sand-binding plants. The two main native sand-binders are pīngao and spinifex. These plants trap sand with their leaves and hold dunes together with their roots. Important dune systems stretch along the South Coast from Worser Bay to Karori Stream, providing home to coastal flora and fauna.

Our steep coastal faces are also home to grey scrub, known for its grey appearance from a distance. In these areas you can find coastal shrubs including tauhinu, taupata and mingimingi on the rugged rocky foreshore and steep cliffs.

Where you can see them

Otari-Wilton's Bush: Head here to see the best remaining example of original broadleaf-podocarp forest in Wellington City. Make sure to visit the rimu estimated to be over 800 years old.

Te Kopahou Reserve: Check out the grey scrub on these stunning seaside cliffs. In spring check out the yellow flowers of the endangered Cook Strait kōwhai.

Polhill Reserve: Enjoy the regenerating māhoe forest, with impressive kōtukutuku growing in the gullies.

At-risk plants and trees

Native plants in Wellington are under threat. Climate change, pest animals, weeds, and deforestation have caused the decline of most of Wellington's natural habitats.

Today we have only 5% of our original lowland podocarp/broadleaf forest and 1% of our original coastal forest remaining. Many of our precious plant species are threatened – and they need our help.

Pests and threats

The Council in action

Wellington City Council is committed to replanting our parks and reserves to restore the city’s natural and bush areas with native plants and trees and create thriving, interconnected ecosystems across the city.

Restoration projects – Bringing back the forests and dunes

You can help

  • Join a local trapping or replanting group –Volunteer outdoors
  • Buy eco-sourced plants from local nurseries – plants that naturally occur in Wellington, grown from locally sourced seed
  • Understand weeds and how to deal with them properly on the Weedbusters website
  • Record special plants and trees you find with iNaturalist.nz