Proceedings of the New Zealand Ecological Society (1962) 9: 8- 13

Vegetation types of high mountain grasslands

Research Article
C. J. Burrows  
  1. University of Canterbury

[First paragraphs...]In any study when a considerable body of information has been collected together it becomes essential to define carefully terms which are to be used. That stage has been reached in the ecological nomenclature of high mountain grasslands in New Zealand. Cockayne's (1921, 1928) terms, coined when the study was in its infancy, have often been used uncritically (e.g. by Allan 1926, Barker 1953, Poole 1951, Relph 1957). Some workers (Barker 1953, Druce 1960, Connor 1960, 1961, and Wraight 1960) have made new contributions for the areas in which they worked but it is considered that an overall, unified approach is necessary. The resolution of published taxonomic knowledge on Danthonia spp. (Connor 1960) has done a lot to clarify the situation. In the following discussion the terms used by Cockayne are reassessed.
As a basic criterion for classification of all the mountain vegetation it is proposed here that the vegetation be termed grassland where grasses, by their size, predominance in cover, and general physiognomic importance are the apparent vegetation. There is often no clear boundary, however, between grassland, scrub, herbfield or bog. In these other forms of vegetation, plants other than grasses are physiognomically important. Some of the usages of Cockayne (certain herbfields, transitions to bog, some fellfield and even some vegetation where grassland merges into scrub) fall into the above definition of grassland. Confusion has arisen in New Zealand plant geography and ecology from acceptance of the Cockayne terms which were based on no clear definitions.