NZ Nature Services is a one-stop shop that provides regionally, environmentally and purpose appropriate plant selection for habitat restoration, shelter, landscaping, mitigation, wildlife, cultural uses and other ‘ecological services’. NZ Nature Services builds on its predecessor, the Green Toolbox plant species selector by expanding the number of native plant species from 350 (mainly woody) to 1000 species covering all growth forms and developmental stages. Species and uses are linked to New Zealand soil, plant and research databases and on-the-ground experience in which Landcare Research and other publicly funded agencies have invested over many decades. For example, information on Māori customary plant uses for food, fibre, construction and medicines comes from Ngā Tipu Whakaroanga. Case studies and links to regional technical guides and brochures (by local councils) bring currently scattered resources together and integrate values for individual projects. For example, we provide links to Plant me Instead pamphlets and guides to riparian restoration, shelter belt planting, landscaping of stormwater treatment devices, and green roofs.

By bringing this information together in one place, NZ Nature Services should improve confidence in the use of native plants, increase the success and values of planting efforts, and expand the range of native plants conventionally used. NZ Nature Services highlights the variety of services that plants can provide and encourages use of native plants for these purposes. Combined with NatureWatch NZ, for species recording, identification and performance monitoring, and Nature Space, that provides support for restoration groups, the information generated by NZ Nature Services will steadily refine people’s familiarity with biodiversity and pests, appropriate (eco-sourced) place-based plant choices, planting techniques, maintenance and monitoring of success.


This project has been supported by Landcare Research Core Investment Funds, Selwyn District Council, Canterbury Regional Council, Horizons Regional Council, Nelson District Council and Wellington Regional Council.

Criteria for plant selection

NZ Nature Services compiles site- and purpose-specific plant lists by filtering the plant selection according to the location pointed to by the user. Only plants that naturally occur in the Ecological Region, where the planting project is being undertaken, are listed. The most common soils (Soil Orders) at the site are also used as a filter for rural areas in particular. These soils are derived from underlying map units based on Landcare Research soil classification. The soil type (Order) is indicated at the top of each sites-species fact sheet. Care must be taken when interpreting soils and associated drainage conditions that change dramatically over short distances in topographically diverse locations, such as river terraces, coastal fringes and modified (anthropogenic) landscapes. In most urban areas, soil information is either not mapped or may be very different to that mapped. This is because the ground is subject to cut and fill, mixing, compaction, importation and or intensive drainage or irrigation. In these situations the lists are decoupled from the coarsely-mapped soils and the detailed profile diagrams must then be consulted to identify the relevant, hyperlinked landform or artificial zone pertinent to your enquiry.

Potential plant lists are thus also filtered by their function/purpose and specific location (zone) within the general site identifiable in a typical cross-section diagram. Each zone takes into account soil drainage, frequency of flooding or disturbance, level of exposure or shelter, and overriding functional requirements. For example, a stormwater swale is divided into three zones: and ‘edge’ abutting a road or footpath (requiring upright, relatively low-growing plants that minimise need for frequent trimming), the wet or dry swale ‘base’ or bed, through which water flows (requiring dense ground covers that filter, not deflect, water), and an edge abutting taller landscaping elements (allowing for plants that ‘flop’, or are taller and bulkier).

Note, that the Soil Order is a valuable discriminator for species selection, because in their mature form they represent the local substrate fertility, climate, hydrology and drainage. However, Recent and Raw soils have not developed sufficiently and you must therefore decide if there is a young soil on your site, if it is wet most of the time (poorly drained), medium, or super-drained and dry (usually coarse stony or sandy substrate perched well above the water table). Species are thus given a Wet, Mesic or Dry ranking (tick or cross) and you should therefore select from the species lists according to your assessment of your site drainage.

Furthermore, the tolerances of all species (to Drought, Frost, Salt Wind, and Water-logging) are also given a High, Medium or Low ranking to further assist with more refined planting plans according to your knowledge of the site conditions.

NZ Nature Services identifies the widest range of plants considered fit-for-purpose. It does not filter based on plant availability, cost or ability to propagate the plant. This means many species are included that are uncommon, but have the functional attributes that make them suitable. This hopefully will encourage the propagation, use and demand for a wider palette off species than has been hitherto available. The planting Stage* is given for each species and for many it is only suitable to plant them in later Stages (2 & 3). But these species provide the wider biodiversity values for the site – beyond the most commonly planted first stage (Stage 1) robust, structural, nursery species. It is timely to incorporate these next (biodiversity) stages for many restoration projects across the country that are now more than 10 years old and are stuck in a fairly low diversity plateau. Recommended spacings for species are also provided in species fact sheets. These are the appropriate distances apart for similarly sized plants, but for example large (noble) trees like totara should have smaller (nursery or shorter-lived companion) trees up close according to their spacing suggestions. Advice on how to refine plant selections and maximise successful establishment is provided in links and summarised in planting advice sheets. You may also wish to seek advice from a locally experienced ecologist. The success of plant establishment and growth is influenced by many factors, of which appropriate plant species selection is just one. Other information is available at Nature Space.

*Stage 1: initial (nursery) species; Stage 2: planting after 2-5 years when Stage 1 plants are approaching 50-75% canopy closure and are above the exotic grasses. These are species sensitive to frost or wind or are slow-growing, poor competitors. Stage 3: are very sensitive species that need a complete high canopy (maybe thinned to let some light in) and including ground-cover ferns, epiphytes or perching plants, mistletoes and lianes or vines.



The NZ Nature Services website and all content provided within it is available for use on an 'as is' and 'as available' basis and without any warranty of any kind, either express or implied. Landcare Research cannot accept any liability for its accuracy and does not warrant the performance or results you may obtain by using this website. The NZ Nature Services website is supported by the best available information and is being continually upgraded; accordingly we welcome feedback to assist with quality enhancement.

Future development

NZ Nature Services is a site under development. More funding is required to complete the site, and we envisage the site will develop and grow over time, as new links are added, and experience is collated. The following are priorities:

Case studies

Case studies will be selected for each Nature Services subcategory. An example is shown here for a stormwater swale. We are prioritising publicly-owned and accessible sites that people are able to visit safely. Each case study has an address, a short description of the ecosystem services provided, and a graph indicating the degree of stress and disturbance at the site. Links to available detailed information are also given.