Trees and plants
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Te Anau is next door to incredible Fiordland national park forest in the Kepler Mountains, including ancient podocarp trees. Podocarp trees have been around since the time of Gondwana Land, before continents separated. This includes the giant Rimu tree, which grows to up to 50 metres. You can literally walk into this forest (on the Kepler Great Walk track) from Te Anau town, or catch a Tracknet bus.
Manapouri borders equally impressive Fiordland national park forest, including the giant fuchsia trees, the largest fuchsia in the world, in the remote Back Valley. Also look out for beautiful manuka groves (of honey fame).
These forests are also home to an amazing array of mosses and lichens, growing on the ground in big soft beds, or covering trees. These diversely-coloured and shaped mosses and lichens are a great indication of the cleanliness of Fiordland's air.
Above the tree line
At about 900m the trees stop growing, and are replaced by a simply magical and bewilderingly diverse world of low-lying alpine plants. In spring and summer the mountains produce their "alpine bling" in the form of beautiful alpine daisies and buttercups. Intricate hebes, gentians and cushion plants drape mountain rocks in beautiful patterns that couldn't be rivalled by the best garden designer.
Climate change poses an enormous threat to these special and delicate plants, designed to survive in cold conditions. The respected botanist Professor Alan Mark has warned that a 3 degree rise in temperature could result in half alpine plants being endangered or extinct by 2100.