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New Zealand eyebright (Euphrasia petriei) Each flower about a centimetre wide.

– photo taken on Mt Owen, Kahurangi National Park, Jan 2021

New Zealand eyebright

Choir Flowers

The throat of the flower

has a yellow patch

from which it sings

of shelter and sun

and the veins in the petals

are streaked purple

from reaching so many

high notes.

How our eyes

go bright, listening.

I love the alpine flowers of Aotearoa, so guess what? the collection I'm working on at the moment features a New Zealand native alpine flower or shrub in every poem – free verse, prose and flash. I want to write about them because not only are they so striking to my aesthetic and being – as a tramper and lover of the mountains – but also to raise awareness of these little beauties as an environmental cause and, of course, to play with the language associated with them. We usually come across them as botanical descriptions, which are lovely in themselves with the attention paid to the tiniest of details – I mean, you have to love those wee flowers to describe them like that! Hugh Wilson, a Canterbury botanist, conservationist and manager of Hinewai Reserve on the Banks Peninsula, has been a great inspiration. He has multiple books, describing the flowers, bush and trees of Canterbury and Aotearoa through beautiful prose as well as his own illustrations. There's a street art in Christchurch honouring him.

Hugh Wilson, Canterbury botanist extraordinaire.

I want to spotlight the plants in a different way - through the personal, social, cultural, political lens of poetry. I began this project in January last year 2020 after a few day walks in Arthurs Pass, where I spent a lot of time on my knees photographing the wee individuals. That was the inspiration! I thought I would limit myself to the flora of Canterbury after some more walks on the Port Hills and around the Heathcote River, where my husband manages a reserve, but this January, we have been wandering in Kahurangi National Park – National Treasure, should I say!

Tarn, looking up to Mt Owen, Kahurangi National Park

In the Mt Owen area, you can find 80% of New Zealand's alpine flowers. Imagine the state of my knees now - all that bending, zooming in on my flora friends. So I'm rethinking my range. At the moment, it's just whatever flower takes my fancy on the day. Very unbotantical-like approach!

So to get to the point, I thought I'd share some of the love – I'm going to endeavour to post an alpine flower (maybe sometimes a shrub or a tree) every day for a month, along with a couple of words – just because, how can I not in this place, probably one of the only places in the world where we can access these little wonders? The poems I will attach to the photos will mostly not be from my collection but new, written on the day. Perhaps, you too will be inspired to write a little poem or story ... See you out there on a virtual mountain ... on your knees!


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