Beautiful but carnivorous: Lake Poaka’s Fairy Aprons in abundance

A beautiful and carnivorous native plant is thriving in a Mackenzie country lake that’s undergoing a project to improve its biodiversity.

In the water of Lake Poaka, near Twizel, the beauty of the native plant known as Fairy Apron (Utricularia dichotoma) hides its carnivorous nature. Under the lake’s surface, these perennial species are using their bladder-like structure to suck in, trap and consume insects and other tiny animals that get too close.

The Fairy Aprons are in abundance at Lake Poaka at the moment, which is part-way through a long-term project to enhance its shoreline and wetlands. Environment Canterbury, Department of Conservation and Central South Island Fish & Game have been working together since earlier this year to remove invasive species, like alder trees, that were clogging the shoreline and degrading the habit for native plants and animals.

Environment Canterbury biodiversity officer, Rob Carson-Iles, says the tiny flowers highlight the significant and varied biodiversity values at Lake Poaka.

“These interesting little species are just one example of the many native plants species we are trying to protect from invasive alders as part of this project, which also include Ranunculus brevis, a Nationally Endangered buttercup. The work we’re doing over the next six months, removing introduced trees, will help preserve the habitat for these species.”

Protecting native plant and bird species

The Lake Poaka project, allocated $11,000 of funding by the Upper Waitaki Water Zone Committee, will also benefit a number of fish and bird species whose habitats are threatened by the invasive trees.

By removing alder trees, the habitat of the Mackenzie Basin endemic bignose galaxias, a threatened native fish, will be protected and access to anglers who target brown and rainbow trout will also improve greatly. Opening up the wetlands will also make it a more attractive habitat for the rare kaki bird to feed and nest in.

Find out more about enhancing biodiversity in the Upper Waitaki water zone.