If you’ve visited Te Papa recently, and especially if you’ve brought children, you may have noticed some changes in the Nature Space Discovery Centre. Part of this area was revamped in October to highlight the plight of wildlife affected by the RENA oil spill.
This month, I have been working with Melanie Dash, Nature Space Supervisor, along with conservation, mount making, writing, interpretation, and installation staff to present a small Botany display. This display is located opposite the RENA display in Nature Space on level 2. Melanie and I have also sought images and advice from the Department of Conservation, Ngā Manu Trust, Auckland Council, and MAF.
The display features one unusual fungus (Cordyceps robertsii) and two plant species, kauri (Agathis australis), and “flower of the underworld” (Dactylanthus taylorii). The aim with the botany items, as with the RENA display, is to foster interest in current conservation issues.
Kauri is one of New Zealand’s most notable tree species, but kauri forests in Northland, Great Barrier Island, and West Auckland are being infected by a soil borne fungus. The fungus causes disease in kauri which excrete resin from their trunks, defoliate, and often die. We can all help limit the spread of this disease by learning more about kauri dieback.
Dactylanthus is the perfect plant to highlight conservation issues in New Zealand. It’s current conservation status of ‘serious decline’ is due to habitat destruction, herbivory from possums and loss of pollinators (short-tailed bat) through predation. In other words, a combination of the main causes of biodiversity decline in New Zealand. The Department of Conservation is a good source of information on this species.
To find out more about the unusual fungus I mentioned, you’ll have to come to Te Papa.