, Volume 18, Issue 1–6, pp 289–306

Ecology of snow tussocks in the mountain grasslands of New Zealand

  • A. F. Mark


Most species of the genus Chionochloa are endemic in New Zealand where they dominate extensively in the low-alpine vegetation. The severe environment, low summer temperatures and persistent high winds in particular, allows only slow growth rates, especially at higher altitudes, in these long-lived plants.

Flowering in several species is associated with some unusual but adaptive features, of which the combined temperature-daylength control of flowering and non-flowering years may be unique among grasses. Adaptive genetic variants of the most widespread species, C. rigida, exploit a wide altitudinal range. This species is favoured by periodic fires but its tolerance was evolved in the absence of grazing mammals.

The serious deterioration of alpine grasslands in the 120 years since European settlement can be attributed largely to the alien domestic and feral animals, and future changes will probably reflect the intensity of their grazing.


Die meisten Arten der Gattung chionochloa sind in Neuseeland endemisch, wo sie extentsiv in der niederalpinen Vegetation dominieren. Die rauhe Umgebung, die niedrigen Sommertemperaturen und besonders die anhaltenden heftigen Winde erlauben nur ein langsames Wachstum bei diesen langlebigen Pflanzen, vor allem in größeren Höhen. Diese Pflanzen zeigen, was die Blüte betrifft, einige ungewöhnliche Anpassungen.

Periodische Brände begünstigen die häufigste Art (C.rigida); diese Toleranz wurde aber in der Abwesenheit von Beweidung entwickelt.

Die erhebliche Verschlechterung der Alpinen Grasländer in den 120 Jahren seit der Ansiedlung der Europäer kann dem Einfluß der fremden Tiere (Haustieren sowie wilden Tiere) zugeschrieben werden; weitere Änderungen dürften vor allem von der Beweidungsintensität abhängig sein.


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Copyright information

© Dr. W. Junk N.V. 1969

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. F. Mark
    • 1
  1. 1.Botany DepartmentUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand

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