West Coast Fern Fieldwork 2012, 1 – what we were doing

I’m just back from 10 days collecting ferns in the South Island’s West Coast.

From previous collections, we knew of several currently unrecognised species of fern that occur on the West Coast. We investigated these records, visiting the sites to collect more material for our studies and to assess the plants in the field, including gauging population sizes for conservation rankings. Most of the previous records were old and lacked detailed locality information. This meant they took a lot of re-finding, but we were successful in most cases.

Gleichenia ferns often grow entangled with one another and with other plants; hence their common name of tangle ferns. But our understanding of them is also in a tangle. Two or three species are currently recognised in New Zealand, but I think there are at least five. The picture is of a new species. It looks similar to the others from above, but very different when viewed from below. I hope to formally describe it in a year or so. Then I will be able to show you the differences. Our fieldwork significantly extended the known occurrences of this fern. Photo Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.

Some of these poorly known ferns are uncommon. While we found some to be more widespread than previously thought, others appear to be teetering on the cusp between the Department of Conservation’s rankings of ‘At Risk’ and ‘Threatened’.

We also collected specimens of several ‘problem’ fern species, whose boundaries are unclear. They need further study, including with genetic analyses, which our new collections will facilitate.

Altogether, we collected about 170 specimens. These will begin to appear on Te Papa’s Collections Online in the next few weeks. However, there are some that we won’t be able to confidently identify without a lot more work.

With me were: Patrick Brownsey, Te Papa Research Fellow; Wendy Hogg, RSNZ Primary Science Teacher Fellow; and Mike Gemmell, VUW postgraduate student.

Other blog posts about our West Coast fern fieldwork cover:

Where we went.

Sticherus (umbrella ferns).

New, problematic, and interesting species.

Favourite photos

Animal miscellany

Te Papa’s Collections Online.

No Responses

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)