Flora and Fauna

Native New Zealand flora and fauna play a starring role on Flaming Pyramids’ tiles:

The Puriri Moth is New Zealand’s largest moth, the female having a wingspan of 150 mm (6″) and the smaller male, 100 mm (4″). The moth is only found in the North Island but is able to take advantage of native, naturalised, and cultivated trees for feeding and as sites of burrows for pupating caterpillars. In fact, it spends its first five to six years in the caterpillar stage and only a few days as an adult.

Immediately identifiable by the white ring around its eye, the diminutive Waxeye is also known as the Silvereye. Similar-looking closely related birds are found throughout Australasia, and in fact, it is believed the waxeye self-introduced to New Zealand in the 1830s. This is reinforced by its Māori name, tauhou, which means ‘new arrival’. It is protected as a native species and enjoys a diet of insects, nectar, and fruit.

The only mushroom to feature on a banknote anywhere–the NZ $50 bill–the Werewere-Kōkako mushroom is  of interest to scientists as a blue food colouring. In a legend of the Tuhoe tribe, the kokako got its blue wattles from rubbing its cheeks against the mushroom and on the $50 bill, this bird accompanies the mushroom.

The bold Fantail or piwakawaka is loved for its distinctive tail, loud song, and characteristic flitting movements. They can be seen in backyards and urban gardens as well as deeper in the bush. Insects and spiders form the bulk of their diet and they are able to eat on the fly. Other fantail species can be found throughout Australasia and on the Indian subcontinent.

New Zealand is home to Powelliphanta, a genus of land snails that first evolved over 235 million years ago. The largest grow to be 9 cm across. Unable to seal off their shells with mucous, they require a moist environment so they bury themselves under logs and leaves and come out at night to feed on worms. They can live to be 20 years old, only reaching sexual maturity at age 5 or 6 and are vulnerable to introduced mammals.

The Australasian swamphen is found in Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. In New Zealand it may have self-introduced about 1000 years ago or been brought by Maori settlers, who gave it the name Pukeko. Often spotted in small groups beside motorways, they have managed to thrive alongside ever-encroaching human development and predators.

The Blue Moon Butterfly, known as the Eggfly butterfly outside New Zealand, has a large range including Madagascar, South and Southeast Asia, certain Pacific islands, Australia, and Japan. Males have jet black bodies with white spots while females (like this one) are brown with markings along the edge of the wings. Females guard the leaves where they lay their eggs.

Notoriously mischievous, the Kea is the world’s only alpine parrot, inhabiting the forested mountainous areas of the South Island. Olive-green, it has brilliant orange feathers under its wings. Adult birds can weight up to 1 kg (2.2 lbs). They will interact with skiers and tourists, investigating and sometimes ransacking their cars, backpacks, and other equipment.