The Wellington Botanical Society has just added* (* actually it is confirmed, rather than added; see update below) another species to the list of native plants known from Wellington – the fern Asplenium lamprophyllum.
To find (* rediscover) such a relatively big species so close to New Zealand’s capital city may seem a little surprising. Just imagine what remains unrecorded amongst the smaller plants and animals! It’s a clear demonstration that there is still lots of exploration to be done and biodiversity discoveries to be made even in New Zealand.
This particular discovery was made during a field trip to the hillside above the Hutt Road motorway, north of Ngauranga Gorge.
This Wellington find is a new southern limit for Asplenium lamprophyllum. It has only been recorded from New Zealand’s North Island. It is fairly common through Northland, Auckland, and Waikato, becoming scattered to the south, with outlying records from Whanganui and southern Hawke’s Bay (the latter being from the late 19th/early 20th century).
Asplenium lamprophyllum looks a bit like a hen & chickens fern (Asplenium bulbiferum and Asplenium gracillimum). But it has distinctly glossy fronds and doesn’t produce ‘chickens’ (bulbils from the upper surface of the frond). Its sori (reproductive structures) are longer and somewhat arching. And, critically, it has a pronounced creeping rhizome.
I’d be grateful for further reports of Asplenium lamprophyllum from the southern North Island (or the South Island!).
If you are interested in learning more about the plants around you, here are a few webpages from Te Papa to get you started with ferns.
The NatureWatch website is a great way to crowd-source identifications of any plant or animal (or fungus or…) you’re not sure of – just upload a photo and tag it as “ID please”. Or use NatureWatch to see what others are finding in your region.
Joining field trips of local botanical societies and the like is also a good way to learn to identify biodiversity and to partake in explorations.
* UPDATE: this is actually a re-discovery rather than a discovery, as it turns out that Asplenium lamprophyllum has been seen in Wellington before. There are two specimens in Kew’s herbarium in London from the Wellington area, collected by David Lyall in 1849 or thereabouts. One is labelled as from “Port Nicholson”, the other as “Cook Strait”. They weren’t labelled as Asplenium lamprophyllum at the time, as the species wasn’t described until 1926. We don’t know of any other specimens or observations made between 1849 and 2013 – a long period of invisibility. I initially missed these early records because they are not noted in the published literature or online resources. My apologies for the initial description of this find as a discovery.