Barbs, Thorns, Spears

These barbs, thorns and spears were all photographed by myself and Nigel when we stopped at Moa Flat on our way home from Central Otago on 12 January 2019. Poking around outside is generally pretty safe in New Zealand but you still need to take care and stay alert. Our native nettle is a total nightmare, tutu is poisonous (even if it occurs in honey), and there’s a variety of spiky, prickly, clinging things that you really don’t want a personal encounter with (e.g. the well-named bush lawyer – once it has hold of you its extremely difficult to extricate yourself).


Barbed wire fence. Both photos taken by Liz




You don’t tangle with our native matagouri.. stand back and admire

moa_flat_thorns_03Cropped from a photo taken by Nigel

moa_flat_barbs_04Photo taken by Liz

Matagouri is also known as Wild Irishman or Discaria toumatou. It is a nitrogen-fixing shrub or small tree.


This vicious native plant is best given a wide berth. The ends of all those leaves are needle-sharp, sharpest-needle sharp. The genus is Aciphylla and they’re commonly called speargrass or wild spaniard. I’ve just found another common name – bayonet plant! They’re dramatic plants bearing wonderful flower heads. The old flower head stems on this plant were yellow so I’m guessing its Golden Spaniard or Aciphylla aurea.

moa_flat_spears_01Photo taken by Liz

Next photo does me no favours at all – you’re allowed to laugh! But I’ve included it to show the speargrass silently waiting in the grass behind me, armed and ready. I’m busy photographing the flower heads of our native flax.

moa_flat_spears_02Photo taken by Nigel

Flower heads of Golden Spaniard can be seen HERE (Terrain web page)

Most Aciphylla are sharp! They’re endemic to New Zealand and Australia. However one New Zealand species of Aciphylla has beautiful ferny glaucous foliage and is a favourite garden plant of ours. It only naturally grows on the Chatham Islands and unlike its spiky relatives, its flesh-friendly. Aciphylla are in the Carrot Family and flower generously, attracting plenty of insects.

The Chatham Islands species is Aciphylla dieffenbachii

Text by Liz, photos by Liz and Nigel; Exploring Colour (2019)

10 thoughts on “Barbs, Thorns, Spears

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    1. When the settlers arrived these were dense over the Otago landscape and also Spaniard (speargrass) which is as nasty as it sounds. Very hard on humans and horses.


    1. Oh they sure do! I used to have a very small variety in my garden and it was so cute but a pain to weed around. You just couldn’t avoid those sharp ends! They’re really wicked!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Hope you didn’t step back into it! There seem to be a lot more spiky and prickly plants in the south of the country than we have in the gentle Bay of Plenty. Bush lawyer nettle and tutu and a type of hook grass that attaches itself to the hairs on your legs are the most deadly things in our bush.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Wendy! I’d noticed it was there and photographed it before attending to my actual target – the flax. Though I got a bit pricked by the Aciphylla when I tried to flatten some grass around it with my shoe – its hard to see the needle-thin ends in the grasses!

      Liked by 1 person

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