Included here is New Zealand (North and South islands), Stewart Island and a multitude of smaller islands.

Mountain Herb Fields

Characterized by the presence of various large herbs these formations occur on the Dividing Range of North Island including the highest peaks of the East Cape Mountains and the central volcanoes, while in South Island they can be found in the Southern Alps and the mountains of the northwest and South Otago districts. In fact, they can be found on all the high mountains where there is frequent rain and an accumulation of humus or peat. Species composition varies from place to place. On the Tararva Mountains, North Island they are characterized by large amounts of Astelia cockaynei, which can appear as either large clumps or as continuous cover stretching for many square metres. Other characteristic species include the endemic Celmisia spectabilis, Leucogenes grandiceps, L. leontopodium (Asteraceae) and Ranunculus insignis (Ranunculaceae). Leucogenes grandiceps is one of the most attractive of the fell-field flowers. It is know as the South Island Edelweiss and with its grey woolly stems and orange flower centres is very similar to the famous Edelweiss of the Swiss Alps. Among other herbaceous species are Oxalis lactea, Ranunculus geraniifolius and the endemic Epilobium cockayneanum (Onagraceae) and Ourisia caespitosa (Plantaginaceae). Various mountain shrubs occur. Endemic species among these include Dracophyllum pronum, Gaultheria depressa (Ericaceae), Hebe evenosa (Plantaginaceae) and the Daphne-like Pimelea gnidia (Thymelaeaceae). Also present are a number of small grasses such as the endemic Poa anceps (Poaceae). On South Island such as the Southern Alps species of Celmisia, especially the endemic Celmisia coriacea (Asteraceae) are usually the dominant plants. Another feature here are the giant buttercups such as the endemic Ranunculus lyallii (Ranunculaceae). This striking and widespread plant has large, glossy, peltate leaves with stalks up to 45 cm long. Other large ranunculi are the endemic Ranunculus buchanani (Ranunculaceae), which is common in the Fiord district.  Other common species include the endemic Astelia petriei (Asteliaceae), a species that often completely fills snow-patch hollows. The fern-like endemic Anisotome haastii (Apiaceae) and the large endemic ourisias, Ourisia macrophylla and O. macrocarpa (Plantaginaceae) are also characteristic of these formations, and there are occasional shrubs such as the endemic Gaultheria rupestris (Ericaceae) and Hebe subalpina (Plantaginaceae). Another feature of herb-fields in general is the presence of so-called snow tussocks. These are all endemic members of the Gondwanan grass genus Chionochloa (Poaceae), such as the endemic Chionochloa teretifolium confined to parts of Fiordland. The genus has similarities with the South American genus Cortadeira, which also has Gondwanan affinities and now forms a component of the pampas grasslands of Patagonia.

Upland Festuca-Poa Tussock-Grassland

Natural or semi-natural examples of this habitat are confined to uplands, stony montane valleys and the flat parts of the Volcanic Plateau, but it is absent in the north of North Island. A number of apparently primeval grasslands possibly owe their existence to the pre-historic burning of forest by the Maori. The dominant tussock species are Poa caespitosa and the endemic Festuca novae-zelandiae (Poaceae). Tussocks can reach 40 cm in height and often touch one another concealing many of the ground layer species. Altogether over 200 indigenous plant species have been recorded in these grassland include many endemic species. The most important and widespread of these are Aciphylla colensoi, Anisotoma aromatica, Oreomyrrhis colensoi (Apiaceae), Coprosma petriei (Rubiaceae), Craspedia uniflora, Helichrysum filicaule, Lagenifera petiolata, Raoulia subsericea, Vittadinia australis (Asteraceae), Discaria toumatou (Rhamnaceae), Epilobium hectorii (Onagraceae), Leucopogon fraseri (Ericaceae), Plantago raoulii (Plantaginaceae), Primelea prostrata (Thymelaeaceae), Ranunculus multiscapus (Ranunculaceae), Viola cunninghamii (Violaceae) and Wahlenbergia albomarginata (Campanulaceae). However, these are often accompanied by a number of exotic species today.


Allan, H. H. 1927. The vegetation of Mount Peel, Canterbury, N. Z. part 2. The Grasslands and other Herbaceous Communities. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, 57: 73-89.

Bell, C. J. E. 1973. Mountain soils and vegetation in the Owen Range, Nelson. New Zealand Journal of Botany, 11: 73-102.

Cockayne, L. 1958. The Vegetation of New Zealand. H. R. Engelmann (J. Cramer).

Mark, A. F. & Bliss, L. C. 1970. The high-alpine vegetation of central Otago, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Botany, 8: 381-451.

Molloy, L. 1994. Wild New Zealand. The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.