Ah Christmas! Tis the season of pine trees and boughs of holly. Or is it?
What of our native plants? And where do they fit on our Yuletide Calendar?
Landcare Research ecologist Colin Meurk says many of our urban and rural landscapes are dominated by exotic species.
"People grow up surrounded by things from other parts of the world and so they lose connection with things that are special and unique to our place."
Dr Meurk believes it's valid to focus on what is unique to New Zealand at Christmas time, including its native flora.
"We've got lots to celebrate and people come from other parts of the world to see something that's different in the Southern Hemisphere, in New Zealand."
"So we should be more knowledgeable about that and more connected to it, I think."
Dr Meurk said many people, particularly those in coastal areas, consider the Pohutukawa to be New Zealand's Christmas tree. He believes the northern and southern Rata are also good choices.
But his preference for a Canterbury option would be the Kanuka, which at Christmas time is covered in white flowers, ressembling snowflakes sprinkled across the canopy.
"Down here it's a bit south of where Pohutukawa normally grows and so I'd kind of like to dub [it] the Canterbury Christmas tree".
Mistletoe and Holly
But don't switch off those carols about Mistletoe and Holly just yet.
While many equate those plants with the Northern Hemisphere, Dr Meurk said there were a number of native mistletoes in New Zealand, all growing as parasites on different plants.
At Christchurch's Historic Riccarton Bush, home to a remnant of floodplain kahikatea, there are two varieties; a Dwarf Mistletoe growing on a Murtle Tree and a Tupia Mistletoe hosted by a Lemonwood Tree.
At the city's Botanic Gardens, Collection Curator Dean Pendry has been germinating mistletoes, using up to 30 host plants - both native and exotic.
While some have germinated on a Pittosporum Dallii, they remain just a few millimetres high, and Mr Pendry said it can be hard to tell if they would survive on the host plants.
"It probably won't be until the next lot of leaves come up that you know that it's taken into the host."
Mr Pendry said he'd be happy to see people connect these plants to the holiday season.
"It might be a good way to promote our New Zealand mistletoes, associating it with Christmas, [because] a lot of the New Zealand ones do flower around Christmas time"
As for the Holly, New Zealand does have what's called "Mountain Holly" but Dr Meurk said it was actually a member of the daisy family.
He hopes New Zealanders will become more aware of their native flora and its regional variations.
"It helps to give people a sense of local identity."