A native species re-recorded for Wellington

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.

Asplenium lamprophyllum, near Ngauranga Gorge in Wellington. Photo © Leon Perrie.

Asplenium lamprophyllum, near Ngauranga Gorge in Wellington. Photo © Leon Perrie.

This particular discovery was made during a field trip to the hillside above the Hutt Road motorway, north of Ngauranga Gorge.

Observation record on citizen-science website NatureWatch.

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).

Distribution map of Asplenium lamprophyllum, based on specimens in Te Papa’s herbarium. Other herbaria have records of the species from northern Taranaki and Whanganui. Click for a page with a zoomable map.

Distribution map of Asplenium lamprophyllum, based on specimens in Te Papa’s herbarium. Other herbaria have records of the species from northern Taranaki and Whanganui. Click the map above for a page with a zoomable map.

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.

Te Papa blog post on hen & chickens ferns.

Asplenium lamprophyllum. Photo © Leon Perrie.

Asplenium lamprophyllum. Photo © Leon Perrie.

Underside of a frond of Asplenium lamprophyllum, showing the comparatively long sori (reproductive structures). Photo © Leon Perrie.

Underside of a frond of Asplenium lamprophyllum, showing the comparatively long sori (reproductive structures). Photo © Leon Perrie.

Asplenium_lamprophyllum_2_Ngauranga4_reduced

The white arrows show the extent of the creeping rhizome in a plant of Asplenium lamprophyllum from the Ngauranga population. Photo © Leon Perrie.

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.

How to learn ferns.

Common New Zealand 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.

NatureWatch website.

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.

Website of the Wellington Botanical Society.

 

* 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.

6 Responses

  1. Leon Perrie

    Hi Nick,
    Being unable to immediately identify something is one of the most exciting parts of exploration! Just before finding the Asplenium lamprophyllum I had written off the gully that we were in as “boring” – nothing out of the ordinary for a rocky gully in Wellington.
    The first plants we found were rather small (despite being fertile) and I was trying to turn them into some exotic. It wasn’t until we found bigger plants nearby that I was confident in the identification as Asplenium lamprophyllum.
    Leon

    Reply
  2. Leon Perrie

    Hi Colin,
    There’s a JE Attwood record from 1933 labelled as “Wanganui” and identified as Asplenium lamprophyllum in the Auckland Museum’s collections. No other collection details in the data I have. It’s mounted across four sheets. I haven’t seen the specimen, but it is plotted in Pat Brownsey’s 1977 revision of Asplenium.
    Cheers,
    Leon

    Reply
  3. Nick Saville

    That’s an interesting history for the fern in Wellington. Good to know the experts can be stumped in the field too ;)

    Reply
  4. Colin Ogle

    Leon: you mentioned Whanganui as a past recorded location for A. lamprophyllum. Have you specific location(s) and date(s) please. I’ve not heard of it in the SW of the North Island. One other ID point – even a piece off a small plant, when crushed, has the smell of wintergreen – most obvious when a bit of root or rhizome is crushed. Colin

    Reply
  5. Leon Perrie

    It’s possible. Or from even closer gardens. But I don’t know of Asplenium lamprophyllum ‘escaping’ from plantings in the Wellington region. For instance, although there is lots planted in the Otari gardens, it hasn’t been noted as self-sowing into the surrounding forest. I would appreciate any observations of Asplenium lamprophyllum self-sowing outside areas where it has been planted. If that does occur (commonly), we’d have to reassess the status of the Ngauranga plants.

    On the other hand, the Lyall records also seem to point to a long history in Wellington.

    Reply
  6. Robyn Smith

    Is there any chance that these plants have grown from spores from the plants at Otari-Wilton’s Bush?

    Reply

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