INCLUDES DENNISTON BUSH LOOP WALK AND BIG TREE WALK.
The flora and fauna of Peel– Forest Park are rich and abundant. The three largest trees in Peel Forest belong to the family Podocarpaceae, a very ancient family going back in time more than 100 million years. The three large trees are kahikatea (white pine), tōtara, and mataī (black pine). Peel Forest has a graduation of vegetation from mature forest to exposed tussock and herb-field communities. The forest, predominately podocarp and broadleaf rain forest, covers the mountain slopes to about 360 metres.
Most of the big trees – lowland Tōtara, Kahikatea and Mataī – had been felled by 1908. Some have survived and ancient giants can been seen along Fern Walk and at Denniston Walk.
Smaller trees include Broadleaf/Kāpuka, tree fuchsia/Kōtukutuku, Cabbage tree/Ti Kōuka, kōwhai, southern Rātā and Pōkākā. Visit in spring and summer for a continuous array of beautiful flowering shrubs. Southern Kōwhai (Sophoramicrophylla) enjoys the conditions on the northern slopes overlooking the Rangitata River. The moist climate is good for the growth of podocarp forest and ideal for ferns; 36% of all the native ferns growing in New Zealand can be found in the area.
Peel Forest terrain and vegetation is diverse and supports a wide variety of wildlife. At least ten species of native bird occur in the forest including Bellbird/Korimako, Silvereye/Tauhou, Tomtit/Miromiro, Rifleman/Tītitipounamu, Grey Warbler/Riroriro, Kererū/native Woodpigeon, Fantail/Pīwakawaka, Silvereye/Tauhou, Shining Cuckoo/Pīpīwharauroa and Longtailed Cuckoo/Koekoeā. You may see New Zealand Pipits/Pīhoihoi and the New Zealand Falcon/Kārearea above the bush line.