Forming the north-western part of the park the Pouākai and Kaitake ranges are now extinct. 500,000 years ago a volcano in the Kaitake range was as big as Mt Taranaki is today, now the range of hills is only 680 metres high.
According to legend Pouakai supports Taranaki and anchors him. Both ranges were the source of kai (food) for local Maori and their names reflect that – Pouākai, meaning the pillar or source of food, and Kaitake, meaning the source or abundance of food able to be grown on its slopes.
The lowland coastal forest of the Kaitake Range is a very different forest than that found in the rest of the national park. There are nikau, titoke, kohekohe,and puriri trees. You’ll find pukeatea and karaka trees and see silver fern and a range of smaller plants. A stand of Californian redwood trees, planted in the 1930s are protected by a special dispensation in the Egmont National Park Management Plan. Other exotic trees planted at the same time are slowly being removed to allow regeneration of native species.
Between the main cone of Taranaki and the Pouakai Range lies the mighty Ahukawakawa Swamp. Formed around 3500 years ago it is home to a third of the park’s plant species. The area forms the headwaters of the Stony River (Hangatahua), which is also protected for its cultural, historic and scenic values.
This unique microclimate is home to many plant species, some unusual at this altitude, and others found nowhere else in the world. Sedges, sphagnum moss, herbs, mosses and red tussock and common here, along with small orchids. The unique divaricating shrub Melicytus drucei is found only here and on the Pouakai Range.