Scientific Wilderness Reserve
The Scientific Wilderness Reserve is about 21 km southeast of Te Anau on the Southern Scenic Route, SH 94. It may not have the most enticing name, but it is interesting as a look back at the first vegetation to appear after the glaciers retreated from Southland 10,000 years ago. The dominant species in the reserve is NZ native bog pine (also mountain pine) that take hundreds of years to get to waist-high and generally grow to about 3 to 4 metres.
These shrub-like trees like rough growing conditions such as stony moraines and river beds, hence their prominence as the glaciers retreated. They are also very tough and their thick bark is fire resistant. In addition, they are able to resprout quickly after a fire event, a useful trait on the dryer eastern side of the southern alps where forests were vulnerable.
The car park is immediately off the road. Take the short track through the bog pines to a viewpoint, looking over an area of bog pine wilderness and across the Mararoa River valley to the lovely 1400 – 1600 metre high Takitimu Mountains. Maybe imagine the dominance of these small hardy trees in the valley, little more than 200 years ago.