For many years, Te Papa botanists have included Otari-Wilton’s Bush collections in their research.
Otari Native Botanic Garden and Wilton’s Bush Reserve is a special place in Wellington–“the only public botanic garden in New Zealand dedicated solely to native plants”. This makes it an important educational and research resource for the city’s inhabitants.
Over two days in March 2015, fellow Botany Researcher Phil Garnock-Jones and I made 61 collections and images of many different species of hebe (Veronica) growing there. These collections are now part of our botany research collection at Te Papa’s herbarium, which contains over 285,000 specimens.
Our recent Veronica collections make up a only small percentage of the more than 700 botanical specimens that have been collected by Te Papa botanists in Otari since the 1930s. Interestingly, most of these have been collected by only six people–Peter Beveridge, Patrick Brownsey, Bruce Hamlin, Leon Perrie, Barbara Polly and Barry Sneddon–all of whom are in the “Te Papa Botany Collectors Hall of Fame” for having contributed more than 2,000 total specimens to the herbarium to date.
Just what have these Te Papa botanists been collecting at Otari?
- Seed plants: In addition to the more than 200 Veronica collections, there are another 200 records of other gymnosperms and angiosperms.
- Ferns: Leon Perrie (Te Papa Curator of Botany), Patrick Brownsey (Te Papa Research Scientist) and Barry Sneddon (former Te Papa Botany Collection Manager) have together contributed 90 fern records. Leon has blogged about his Otari collections, and given talks there on fern identification.
And let’s not forget about the little plants!
- Lichens: Over 200 lichen records, mostly collected by Te Papa Research Associate Barbara Polly.
- Liverworts: 45 liverwort records, most of which were collected by Bruce Hamlin (1929-1976), former Curator of Botany at the National Museum of New Zealand.
- Mosses: 42 moss records, the majority collected by Te Papa Research Associate Peter Beveridge.
How do these collections contribute to our research?
Simply put, we are able to easily access fresh material of individuals of certain native species, some of which are only found in inaccessible or distant places (such as Kermadec Island ferns). At Otari, we can image, measure, compare, observe, collect, count chromosomes of, and extract DNA from their collections (with permission, of course!).
Otari also offers a venue for us to interact with and educate the public about our research through talks and guided walks.
Although Te Papa’s 700+ from Otari are somewhat skewed towards our research interests, they nevertheless amount to over 400 species and are thus representative of what is currently growing in Otari. In the Otari Bioblitz of 2007, nearly 500 different plant species were found (pdf) at the Botanic Garden and surrounding Wilton’s Bush. Te Papa botanists were enthusiastic participants in that Bioblitz, and indeed several specimens were added to our collections as a result.
And plants are not the only things living at Otari…
Te Papa also holds several thousand land snails from Otari, comprising 767 databased lots representing 58 species–nine of which are undescribed–and some of which are on Collections Online. With continued research, databasing and digitising of Te Papa’s collections, additional records from Otari will likely be uncovered and available online in the future.
Thanks to Wellington City Council and the folks at Otari-Wilton’s Bush for their continued support and collaboration.