Help name a new species

The You Called Me What?! exhibition celebrates 150 years of scientific discovery at Te Papa. A big part of this has been the scientific naming of more than 2500 animal and plant species by museum staff since 1865.

We’re now giving you the opportunity to be involved. The exhibition will showcase several of the new species that Te Papa’s scientists are currently working on. What do you think these should be called?

More on the You Called Me What?! exhibition.

A new species of fern

First in our line-up of new species needing names is an Asplenium fern.

The new fern species grows on limestone and similar rocks in the north-west South Island. Photo © Leon Perrie.

The new fern species grows on limestone and similar rocks in the north-west South Island. Photo © Leon Perrie.

All of New Zealand’s Asplenium ferns have scales on their fronds, especially on the stalks. A feature that distinguishes the new species from its relatives is the abundance of scales (seen here as black spots) on the upper surface of its fronds. Photo by Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.

All of New Zealand’s Asplenium ferns have scales on their fronds, especially on the stalks. A feature that distinguishes the new species from its relatives is the abundance of scales (seen here as black spots) on the upper surface of its fronds. Photo by Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.

More information on the fern and tips about choosing a name, along with the terms for entering.

To suggest a name, write to youcalledmewhat@tepapa.govt.nz, or visit the exhibition on Level 3 at Te Papa. Make sure you include why you chose the name – that’s important!

What has been suggested so far?

There have already been over 650 suggestions of names for the new species of Asplenium fern. I’m one of the scientists who will select the name that does get used. I really like some of the suggestions; others not so much. Regardless, thank you to those who’ve participated.

Below is a survey of the suggestions, to give an idea of their diversity.

Let us know if you think one of these is a winner, or maybe they’ll inspire your own suggestion.

You’ve got to mid-February to suggest a name for the Asplenium fern. Then we’ll move to naming a Myosotis forget-me-not herb.

People

Many thought the new fern should be named after themselves. So there was Asplenium alysha (from Alysha). Similarly, ameliae (Amelie), amitsfern (Amit), bhuvanii (Bhuvan), bradicalfern (Brad), carmencita (Carmen), caroliniae (Carolin), clive (Clive), dakota (Dakota), dianae (Diane), emma (Emma), georga (Georga) husainus (from A. Husain), jonte (Jonte), josh (Josh), kanara (P. Karana), laundt (Lara), lori (Lori), meredithae (Meredith), owenii (Owen), paulii (Paul), rosenhaynae (A. Rosenhayn), ruthrocksiae (Ruth), saharasarahae (Sahara), shannon (Shannon), sharonae (Sharon), shelby (Shelby), simonsathegreat (Simon), tom (Tom), tim (Tim), timmyiumpo (Timmy). Aviana M wrapped in her brother’s name with avianafinni. Kara M and Linn each provided more justification for using their names: karaum because kara means “pure” in many languages and it relates to the supposed benefits for the spleen provided by this group of ferns; linni because the fern has freckles, just like her.

There were names for other people. For instance, John W suggested Asplenium adamsiae and Miriam suggested dellii, after Nancy Adams and Dick Dell, who are museum staff featured in the You Called Me What?! exhibition. There was also: agnes, for a biology teacher who impressed Moritz J with her knowledge of plants; bobdylanii, because Christopher thinks “scientists like Bob Dylan” (I don’t); eagleae for the botanical illustrator Audrey Eagle, from Siobhan L; eden, from Eleanor, because “my mummy likes gardening and it is her name”; hendryae for a colleague of Curdin K; leaniae, from Tracey, after her mother-in-law who is interested in ferns; lomu for Jonah Lomu, from Donal R, tracey, from Jean F, for her wife; lowia for Missy’s cat (and she LOVES her cat). Daniel, being a Bruce Willis fan, went for the (unlikely-to-be-picked) diehard. The suggestion for mccaw was anonymous, but was probably from my colleague Basil. Jonathan H deserves (or possibly needs) special mention for rayjae, after his “beautiful wife”.

There were several suggestions that the scientists who are working on the new fern species should name it after themselves. So, for Leon Perrie and Patrick Brownsey: Asplenium leopat (Cheryl B); lepepabro (Rich J); perbronii (Darron); perriebrowniea (Roger S); perrnsii (Kyle); and persey (Cheryl B). Thank you, but that is not the done thing.

Chris M thought the fern looked like a barry. Lotts and Jane both thought differently with dave, while Rameka went with geoff.

Perhaps reflecting the tourist component of Te Papa’s audience, travel companies were honoured with Asplenium optimus from Kelly-Anne and quantus from Isabel P.

Te Papa got a look in (thank you) with Asplenium tepapa from Mitch and tepapae from Susanna. Darron gave nostrilocus as a Latin translation of Te Papa’s “our place”.

Looks

The fern’s scales were a direct inspiration for many people, with Asplenium scalea, scalesouthsonium, scaleus, scaleyfern, scalifrons, scalious, scaliumlimestola, scalum, scalus, scalussouthensis from Fiona, Jennifer L, Joshua D, Ava H, Lindi E, Adam W, Dawn W, Aurora, Rem S, and Nicole. And, translated, lepidofolium (Caitlin S), lepidum (Meghan), modulus (Ishbel), squamulus (Bill B), and squamum (Brigid M)

Ferns can have hairs, scales, both, or neither. Hairs on ferns are about as wide as those of mammals. Fern scales are wider than a hair, and often triangular. Koru, or the unfurling new fronds of ferns, are often densely covered in hairs or scales; perhaps they afford mechanical protection. This is a koru of a hen & chickens fern, Asplenium bulbiferum, which is a reasonably closely related to the new species. Photo © Leon Perrie.

Ferns can have hairs, scales, both, or neither. Hairs on ferns are about as wide as those of mammals. Fern scales are wider than a hair, and often triangular. Koru, or the unfurling new fronds of ferns, are often densely covered in hairs or scales; perhaps they afford mechanical protection. This is a koru of a hen & chickens fern, Asplenium bulbiferum, which is reasonably closely related to the new species. Photo © Leon Perrie.

For others, it was the spotty, dotty pattern of the scales. So: Asplenium dotae (Andie A), dotis (Michelle), dottedfern (Madix S), dottedleaf (Amber), dotteorum (Annaliese K), dottiae (Adelaide), dottius (Catherine J), dotty (Rachel R), dotum (Kevin L); spot (Chiquita), spotialis (Angela J), spoticus (Hannah D, and again from Lisa F), spoticusium (Bill R), spotilium (Kiri T), spotious (Madeline), spotted (Nina), spottedleaf (Maddie W, and again from Tanya), spottedpounamu (Jeanette T), spottia (Rosie), spottickium (Bryony, who also riffed off the limestone habitat to includes ticks because they carry lyme disease), spottykakariki (Ryan with Ava), spottywot (Sophie), spotulum (Wylder F); blackspot or blackspottedfern etc., from Ricky D, Jayden, Shriya, Rohan, and Truus; the Latin punctum from each of Laura L, Elena F, and Matthias; polkafern, polkadotiae, polkadotyum, and polkaum from Peng Tan, Emily B, Emily, and Ashley M; droplet (Kyle S); aspecklefern (Janet S), speckleum (Julia E), specklum (Stuart S); and maculosasquamas from Robert D. Denise and Thomas R went for the black colour of the scales with the Māori mangoa and Latin nigrum. Christine’s iramahuora combined te reo for dots (ira) and health (mahu ora). I think Jamie H’s obsquamischorum means dancing scales.

There were several names based on pepper, like Asplenium peppercorna and pepperum, from Keisha, Ben C, Kelly F, Martin, Adam, James R, and Charline, as well as blackpepperfern (Carol H), greenpepper (Richard C), lemonpepper (Antoinette R), and lemonapepperum (Zara B). Similarly, chia (Maddie), sesamefern (Tina W), sesamegreen (Rita W), vanilla (Sebastian C), and vanillaseedius (Jeff B), and kiwi (Ruth) and kiwifruit (Peter S) for the inside of kiwifruit.

Also Asplenium freckles (Karin R), frecklum (Meret S), multifolifreckliae (Taryn M), the Latin ephelides (Denise), and lentigoum (Sarah). Similarly, dalmation and dalmatium from Rian and Emily R.

Other connotations were less healthy, with Asplenium chickenpox (Elise with Chloe) and rash (Sammeey C). Kaelin’s ascne combined as for the genus name and cne for acne.

Toothless from the How to Train Your Dragon movies is currently starring at Te Papa as part of DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition. Photo Kate Whitely. © Te Papa.

Toothless from the How to Train Your Dragon movies is currently starring at Te Papa as part of DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition. Photo Kate Whitely. © Te Papa.

Creatures with scales were popular, including dragons (I wonder why?), with Asplenium dragonum from each of Bleau B, Kent, Meredith, and Villjam, and the biblical azazel from Ben S and the Tolkien smaugii from Melanie R. Also, fishum (Ksenia), oligosoma (Sarah with Doug), reptialium (Jane), serpenum (Jenni), speckledkoi (Sarah), and tuatarum (Nix).

Away from scales, names based on fern were suggested by each of Jayden, Michelle, Sarayde, John, Tyla H, Imogen W, and Ruth R culminating in Ruth’s Asplenium fernoniumverdalis. James, Jim, and Corey each suggested names based on leaf.

The fronds’ size and shape was of note to some, with Asplenium longifolium (Lola), longleaffern (Olivia), spear (Nina), and spikum (Rachael J). Poetically, Keira J suggested riverii, because the fronds fall downwards, running to a river, while the weeping, tear-shaped leaves meant Mira M went for virgofletu. The prettiness of the fern made Shalako S’s “hart” stop; hence maidenhart.

For others, it was the colour of the fronds, with names based on green, such as Asplenium greenii, from Max H, Joyce, Andrew, Anna E, James J, and Jarden B, along with translations to prasinum (Brigid M), verde (Carmen), and verdiscalapium (Erin J). Desiree suggested stracciatella because it reminded her of green gelato. Catherine C liked waipounamu, combining colour and the South Island location.

As an aside, Catherine C’s suggestion was actually waipounamuensis but she said she’d rather not add a Latin suffix to a Māori name. The rules of botanical scientific naming do allow words to be used without Latinisation.

The fronds’ shine saw Asplenium shinyviny from Jack, shinyum from Saffron, and bright from Tora K. Magda together with Marcello went for inceratum because the fronds shine as if covered by wax.

Other resemblances were more abstract, with: caesareum from Julia S because the fern looks like the crown that Caesar wore; caterpileriaae from Catherine C; corrugatum from Kristy E; fanfern from Liam W; and nightgem from Rodney B because the fern is a gem of the land with night suggested in the black spots.

Adam went for potatoum because he, uniquely, thought the fern looks like a spikey potato.

Place

The occurrence of the new Asplenium species in the north-west of the South Island led to Asplenium aureabolis-australis (Kit K), kahurangi (Greg K), and kahurangiensis (Nell). David M gave away his music preferences with kanyeicolum, because Kanye has a daughter called North West. Less precisely, but similarly, southensis (Morgan), southern (Emmett J), southernlimnum (Dan), and southii (Melanie K), along with aotearoa (Lisa C), zealandicus (Babis), zelandiahaiti (Bernard), and zelandica (Dragan).

The limestone habitat underpinned many names like Asplenium lime (perhaps also a reference to the frond colour) and limestonicolum, from Marcelo, Rebekah, Michael A, Jesse H, Nick S, Cameron, Sipra, Lily P, Sam, Kaci, Jacob H, along with pakehoicolum, with pakeho Māori for limestone, from Jamie with Georgia, and calcitium (Angela E) and calcicolium (Matthew). Rock-based names also popped up with rock (Gert), rockscale (George G), rockifernia (Nicholas E), rockykiwi (Arthur), the German steinicolum (Annemarie D), the Latin petricum (Charles M), and stone (Nicholas).

Some combined the location, habitat, or scales, giving Asplenium northeumscaleum (Kairis), northstone (Xander B), basicolum-tasmanense (Anna S), and squamacorum (Tom S).

Of the wider environment, Sapna went for Asplenium mosieana because the fern looks like it needs moss to survive, which is arguably true (for most terrestrial life).

Other

The health properties attributed historically by Europeans to Asplenium ferns were picked up with Asplenium healium (Kevin), health (Gegd), healum (Benjamin S), medicanum (Tenille P), spleenexractum (Minnie), spleenfixer (cool guy), and spleniusa (Sean). Catherine’s mahararonga combined te reo for spleen (mahara) and medicine (ronga). 

Ana liked Asplenium pravus, for the fern being misidentified as other species. Anthony was palindromic with muinelpsa. Mya opted for no vowels with ntnz, standing for Native To New Zealand.

Comprehensiveness was Peter M’s intention, with Asplenium lepidoaustralicalciphilipseudoblongifolioperrieibrownseyique. This was, however, directly contra to Melanie K’s plea who said “I work in a garden centre and would like a nice pronounceable name for once” (and who suggested southii).

Some were somewhat tangential, with the respective loves of Jon T and Cameron giving us Asplenium chickaano and t-rex, while Eden, who loves giraffes, went for raffy.

Finally, two suggestions I especially enjoyed (but am unlikely to choose): Larrisa delightfully went for Asplenium happyotus because the fern looks happy, while Matthijs favoured Asplenium awesomicum, because “science and discovery is awesome!!”. Yeah.

2 Responses

  1. Andrew Paul Wood

    Asplenium loricasquamata – after the lorica squamata or “scaled armour” of the ancient Roman legions.

    Reply
  2. Jo

    I think go topical and look to the flag debate. We are possibly getting a fern on our flag (booo!) but as a fan of the red peak design (yey!), I reckon give us something back and name the fern after red peak! Though we might get a fern on the flag, but we’d definitely get a flag for a fern!

    Reply

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