Posts written by Leon Perrie

Public talk on Pseudopanax

Five finger, whauwhaupaku, Pseudopanax arboreus.  Photo by Leon Perrie. (c) Leon Perrie, Wellington.

I’ll be joining Lara Shepherd (Allan Wilson Centre, Massey University) to give a talk on Pseudopanax Monday night (21 September 2009) in Wellington. We’ll begin by discussing each of the species: how to identify them and where to see them.  Then we’ll cover the results of our research projects that have looked at hybridisation between… Read more »

Desert ferns

  • Typical vegetation along the Larapinta Trail. Most of the green trees are gums. The grey trees are wattles. The low-growing clumps are ‘spinifex’ grasses. Photo by Leon Perrie. (c) Leon Perrie, Wellington.
  • Typical vegetation along the Larapinta Trail. Most of the green trees are gums. The grey trees are wattles. The low-growing clumps are ‘spinifex’ grasses. Photo by Leon Perrie. (c) Leon Perrie, Wellington.
  • Shaking Brake fern, Pteris tremula. Photo by Leon Perrie. (c) Leon Perrie, Wellington.
  • Marsilea ferns look like four-leaved clovers, and are principally aquatic. This one was in a watercourse that had dried up. Photo by Leon Perrie. (c) Leon Perrie, Wellington.

I’m just back from holiday in central Australia, near Alice Springs. Even though it was holiday, I was still plant-spotting. (I could hardly walk around with my eyes closed, could I?) There’s ferns even in the desert. Strictly speaking, it’s apparently an “arid” region, rather than desert. In any case, it was dry. But there were… Read more »

Pohutukawa flowering – is it Christmas already?

Pohutukawa on Wellington’s waterfront, 20 June 2009. It is still in flower, over a month later. Image by Leon Perrie, Curator. © Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

No, it is not Christmas already. (Fortunately the year hasn’t passed by that quickly.) But this pohutukawa on Wellington’s waterfront, opposite Frank Kitts Park, seems to think so. It has been spluttering into flower over the last few weeks. The pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa) is New Zealand’s ‘Christmas tree’, its bursting display of red flowers signalling… Read more »

DNA-fingerprinting fierce lancewood

  • The four principal genetic groups detected by microsatellite DNA-fingerprinting in fierce lancewood are indicated by different colours. The small grey circles are populations that we haven’t sampled, but which are represented by specimens in the herbarium collections of Te Papa, Auckland Museum, and Landcare Research.
  • The four principal genetic groups detected by microsatellite DNA-fingerprinting in fierce lancewood are indicated by different colours. The small grey circles are populations that we haven’t sampled, but which are represented by specimens in the herbarium collections of Te Papa, Auckland Museum, and Landcare Research.
  • The four principal genetic groups detected by microsatellite DNA-fingerprinting in fierce lancewood are indicated by different colours. The small grey circles are populations that we haven’t sampled, but which are represented by specimens in the herbarium collections of Te Papa, Auckland Museum, and Landcare Research.
  • At each different kind of microsatellite, each individual has two copies, one inherited from its mother and the other from its father. The two copies in an individual can be the same or different lengths. This is a figure of one particular kind of microsatellite for two individuals. In the upper individual, the two copies are of different lengths: length 129, which is quite uncommon, and length 135 which is common and widespread. In the lower individual, the two copies are both of length 135, which is why there is only one large peak.

Aside from ferns, my main research interest is the group of trees known as Pseudopanax, for which I collaborate with Lara Shepherd from the Allan Wilson Centre. Blog posts on ferns Blog posts on Pseudopanax Pseudopanax includes the lancewoods and five-fingers. Several of the species are popular in cultivation, including fierce lancewood (Pseudopanax ferox). This… Read more »

Restoring our surrounds

Houpara, coastal five-finger, Pseudopanax lessonii, is native to the northern North Island, but not to Wellington. However, after being introduced by people, it now grows wild in Wellington (and many other parts of New Zealand outside its native range [http://blog.tepapa.govt.nz/2009/06/10/our-promiscuous-pseudopanax-plants/]). There are now a reasonable number of New Zealand plants occurring wild outside their indigenous distributions, entirely as a result of human activities. Photo by Leon Perrie. (c) Leon Perrie, Wellington.

I went to a very interesting Wellington Botanical Society talk last night, by Paul Blaschke of Friends of Owhiro Stream. Paul was talking about their work revegetating the catchment of the Owhiro Stream in southern Wellington. It stimulated an intriguing discussion about how and what we should be restoring, which in turn relates to what… Read more »

Our promiscuous Pseudopanax plants

  • Distribution maps for (A) lancewood, (B) coastal five-finger, and (C) their hybrids. Circles indicate natural distributions, and were compiled using data from the AK (Auckland Museum), CHR (Landcare Research), NZFRI (Scion), and WELT (Te Papa) herbaria. Squares for coastal five-finger and the hybrids indicate their ‘weedy’ distribution, this being a preliminary assessment based on my observations.
  • Maps_Sep08
  • Distribution maps for (A) lancewood, (B) coastal five-finger, and (C) their hybrids. Circles indicate natural distributions, and were compiled using data from the AK (Auckland Museum), CHR (Landcare Research), NZFRI (Scion), and WELT (Te Papa) herbaria. Squares for coastal five-finger and the hybrids indicate their ‘weedy’ distribution, this being a preliminary assessment based on my observations.
  • Coastal five-finger, houpara, Pseudopanax lessonii. Photo by Leon Perrie. (c) Leon Perrie, Wellington.

New Zealand’s plants have a bit of a reputation for pronounced promiscuity. There is supposedly a high rate of hybridisation, or individuals of one species breeding with individuals of a different species. I’m not entirely sure that this reputation is nationally deserved. Nevertheless, a striking example of hybridisation occurs in Pseudopanax, which is one of… Read more »

WEED ALERT – watch for horsetails!

  • Distribution of Equisetum arvense in New Zealand as indicated by verifiable specimens in Te Papa’s herbarium. Te Papa’s collection is an under-representation of this species’ full extent, having been recorded by others from Auckland, Napier, New Plymouth, Christchurch, and Dunedin.
  • Equisetum arvense is much smaller (up to 80 cm tall, but often much shorter) and is branched, whereas Equisetum hyemale is unbranched. Photo by Jean-Claude Stahl, Natural Environment Imager. Copyright Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
  • Stems of Equisetum hyemale, with the terminal ‘cones’ that produce spores. Photo by Clayson Howell, DOC. Copyright Clayson Howell, Wellington.
  • An unimpressed Jon Terry (DOC) with the Levin infestation of Equisetum hyemale. Photo by Clayson Howell, DOC. Copyright Clayson Howell, Wellington.

An infestation of a giant horsetail, Equisetum hyemale, has been found near Levin. It was spotted by eagle-eyed Department of Conservation staff. They gave us a specimen for Te Papa’s herbarium collection of dried plants.   No horsetail species occur naturally in New Zealand, but several have been purposefully or accidentally introduced. Because they are… Read more »

Is your hen and chickens fern a fake?

  • The cave spleenwort, Asplenium cimmeriorum, is related to the hen & chickens ferns but doesn't produce bulbils. It is found in limestone areas, including caves, around Waitomo and the north-west of the South Island. Photo by Leon Perrie, Curator. (c) Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
  • The false hen & chickens fern - Asplenium ×lucrosum - has dimorphic, or two very different looking, fronds on the same individual. The fronds with spore-producing structures have much narrower frond segments than fronds without. This difference in form can even occur within a single frond if it has regions with and without reproductive structures. Asplenium bulbiferum and Asplenium gracillimum do not have dimorphic fronds. Photo by Leon Perrie, Curator. (c) Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
  • Asplenium gracillimum with narrow frond segments. These resemble the fertile fronds of Asplenium ×lucrosum (see below), but they can be distinguished by all of the fronds having narrow segments, rather than having both broad (when without spore-producing structures) and narrow (when with spore-producing structures) segments. Photo by Leon Perrie. (c) Leon Perrie, Wellington.
  • Caption

Are you growing a hen & chickens fern at home? If so, chances are it’s a fake, unless you dug it out of the bush. Hen & chickens ferns get their common name from their production of bulbils, or vegetative outgrowths, on the upperside of their fronds. These bulbils are the ‘chickens’ and the fronds… Read more »

The false hen and chickens fern

Fronds with (left) and without (right) reproductive structures, of the same individual of Asplenium ×lucrosum.  Asplenium ×lucrosum inherited this frond dimorphism (having two forms) from Norfolk Island’s Asplenium dimorphum. Photo by Leon Perrie, Curator. (c) Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

Most hen & chickens ferns in cultivation are the false hen & chickens fern, Asplenium ×lucrosum, rather than Asplenium bulbiferum.  The two are easily distinguished. Asplenium ×lucrosum is a sterile hybrid between Asplenium bulbiferum and Asplenium dimorphum.  The “×” preceding “lucrosum” indicates it is a hybrid. The two parent species – Asplenium bulbiferum  and Asplenium… Read more »