Posts written by Leon Perrie

What’s a punga?

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  • Whekī-ponga, Dicksonia fibrosa.
  • Kātote, Cyathea smithii.
  • Mamaku, Cyathea medullaris.

THIS PAGE HAS BEEN SUPERSEDED. A more comprehensive account of New Zealand’s tree ferns is available here. ‘Punga’ is a quintessential Kiwi word used to refer to tree ferns or sometimes, more specifically, the trunks of tree ferns.  But in his book A Dictionary of Maori Plant Names, James Beever does not record any tree… Read more »

Coralline red algae

  • Scientists Tracy Farr (NIWA) and Louise Kregting (Otago) sampling corallines for chemical analysis
  • Jars of coralline specimens shelved at Te Papa's Tory St. spirit store
  • Coralline ‘pink paint' on rock (Credit: T.J.Farr)
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Botany has recently acquired a unique collection: a special group of calcified red algae known as the corallines. Coralline algae are abundant and ubiquitous throughout the world’s oceans, playing very important roles in marine ecosystems. The encrusting, or crustose, species can form unusual lumpy, warty-looking layers in the intertidal, sometimes completely covering rocks. Perhaps you… Read more »

Identifying maidenhair spleenwort ferns.

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  • The Button fern, Pellaea rotundifolia.
  • A maidenhair fern, Adiantum fulvum.
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The maidenhair spleenwort is a spleenwort fern (Asplenium) that (supposedly) looks like a maidenhair fern (Adiantum, see below). The 600 or so of the world’s spleenworts are characterised by having their reproductive structures in lines away from the margins of their fronds’ undersides. Two maidenhair spleenworts occur in New Zealand. They look very similar, but… Read more »

We have DNA

  • Pseudopanax macintyrei.
  • Pseudopanax macintyrei.
  • Adult tree of fierce lancewood, Pseudopanax ferox.
  • DNA of Pseudopanax on agarose gel after electrophoresis

The first step after collecting samples for genetic analyses is to extract the DNA. Lara and I do this for lancewood and five-finger plants (Pseudopanax) by: freezing a small piece of leaf tissue in liquid nitrogen (-196 degrees C !) and grinding it as finely as possible. adding a detergent to release the DNA from… Read more »

Disguised in the bush – a plant mimic

  • Alseuosmia macrophylla, from near Auckland
  • Fruit of Alseuosmia pusilla
  • horopito, pepper tree, Pseudowintera colorata
  • Alseuosmia pusilla

Last weekend, when I should have been writing grant applications, I was dragged out for a bush-walk. However, my arm didn’t have to be twisted too hard, since it was a fine day and the track between Kiriwhakapapa and Blue Range is lovely (although steep). Alseuosmia pusilla was abundant along the track. This is a… Read more »

Lancewood hunting

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  • pseudopanax_ferox_juvenile1
  • pseudopanax_ferox_juvenile_leaf1
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Field-work is one of the best aspects of working as a Natural Environment curator at Te Papa. I get to spend about three weeks a year in the field collecting plant specimens. I’ve recently returned from ten days field-work in the South Island, collecting samples for our research on lancewood (horoeka, Pseudopanax crassifolius) and fierce… Read more »

Rare fern rediscovered.

  • Maidenhair spleenwort.  This is the rare species, but the common one looks very similar.
  • Me, on top of the Ruahine Ranges.  No rare ferns sighted up here, but interesting nonetheless.
  • Me
  • Maidenhair spleenwort.  This is the rare species, but the common one looks very similar.

I’m one of the Botany Curators at Te Papa, and ferns are one of my specialties.  New Zealand has about 200 native ferns, and some of them are very rare.  We recently rediscovered one rare fern that had been ‘lost’.  I was beginning to wonder if it had become extinct, but fortunately it has not. … Read more »