Posts written by Leon Perrie

Animal and plant collections

Te Papa’s Natural Environment team have revamped their webpages. You can access them here. Collection highlights online include: Big fish Medicinal ferns of the second Maori king Unique bird eggs and skeletons Colossal squid Plants collected during Captain Cook’s first expedition GV Hudson insect collection Nests of extinct birds The following links will take you… Read more »

Plants cultivated by Māori

  • Southern Wairarapa karaka grove. © Leon Perrie.
  • Southern Wairarapa whau. © Leon Perrie.
  • Arthropodium bifurcatum in a garden at Victoria University. © Leon Perrie.
  • Southern Wairarapa rengarenga. © Leon Perrie.

Alongside the plants brought from the tropical Pacific, it is thought that Māori cultivated at least a handful of New Zealand plant species. Massey University’s Lara Shepherd is investigating several such plants: karaka (Corynocarpus laevigatus), rengarenga (Arthropodium cirratum), and whau (Entelea arborescens). Karaka in Te Papa’s Bush City. Karaka, rengarenga, and whau are all only found… Read more »

Winter Fungi

Geastrum – earthstar. I’ve never seen anything like this before, but very striking. © Leon Perrie.

I know little about fungi, but I can still see that there are plenty around at present. Perhaps they’ve been enjoying the mild start to winter. The following caught my eye during a recent Manawatu Botanical Society field-trip to the Branch Road track in the Pohangina Valley north of Palmerston North. For fungal novices like… Read more »

Handsome Hard Ferns

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  • Black hard fern, Blechnum nigrum. A small ground fern. Its fronds are very dark-green, almost black, and the apex is enlarged and rounded. © Leon Perrie.
  • Kiokio, Blechnum novae-zelandiae.  A medium to large ground fern.  One of the most common ferns in New Zealand.  Often seen hanging from hillsides, cliffs, and road-cuttings, but also common in swamps and forests.  © Leon Perrie.
  • Crown fern, Blechnum discolor.  A medium-sized ground fern, with a distinctive shuttlecock-like appearance.  Can dominate the groundcover over large areas within forests.  Photo Leon Perrie, (c) Te Papa.

Here are two striking and (I think) attractive Blechnum hard ferns. Nigrum is Latin for black.  Colenso’s hard fern is named after William Colenso – printer, missionary, politician, and naturalist – altogether a very extraordinary person.  Biography of William Colenso.  The “hard” part of the name comes, I presume, from the texture of the frond;… Read more »

Bush City’s residents

Mamaku, Cyathea medullaris, in Te Papa's Bush City.  Photo Leon Perrie, (c) Te Papa.

Want to know more about the plants in Bush City? Bush City is Te Papa’s only living, outdoor exhibition. Information about some of the plants in Bush City is now available from Te Papa’s Collections Online. Let me know if you are interested in a plant in Bush City that is not included in the… Read more »

Delight and Disaster in the Rubbish Heap

  • Unripe fruit of poroporo, Solanum laciniatum. Photo © Leon Perrie.
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  • Flowers of the two poroporo. Solanum laciniatum is on the left, Solanum aviculare on the right. Photo © Leon Perrie.
  • The two poroporo side-by-side. Solanum laciniatum is on the left, Solanum aviculare on the right. Photo © Leon Perrie.

I’m always keen to add to the number of plants I can recognise. Weeds are a profitable group in that respect. Recently my wife pointed out an interesting looking organic rubbish heap on the grounds of Massey University that was home to an odd-looking Solanum. Imagine my delight when, on closer inspection, I found it… Read more »

Finding rare plants with GW

  • Melicytus obovatus, Titahi Bay. Photo and © Tim Park.
  • Southern shore spleenwort, Asplenium obtusatum, Titahi Bay. Photo and © Tim Park.
  • The green is the Leptinella manitoto, thriving on the dry mud. The red is a species of Crassula. Photo and © Tim Park.
  • Close up of Leptinella maniototo, with several flowering inflorescences, each c. 2 mm across. Its narrow leaves and leaf-segments, and its shortly-stalked inflorescences are distinctive. Photo and © Leon Perrie.

Last week, Antony and I joined Greater Wellington Regional Council staff, Robyn Smith and Tim Park, to check out a few plants that are uncommon locally. The highlight was seeing Tim’s recent discovery of a new population of the button daisy Leptinella maniototo, near Porirua. This is only the second known North Island population, the other… Read more »

Flower of the underworld

A plant of Dactylanthus taylorii, sitting amongst the leaf litter. It is not an especially striking sight when not flowering. Todd saw this population flowering this time last year. Photo Leon Perrie.

I’m just back from my first sighting of the “flower of the underworld”, Dactylanthus taylorii or pua o te reinga. This was a Manawatu Botanical Society trip, led by Todd McLay of Massey University, to see a nearby, accessible population. It was exciting to be shown Dactylanthus taylorii, which is a very odd plant! It is… Read more »

Creating a buzz

Flies, possibly including Helophilus and Calliphora, swarming on the flowers of Aupouri coastal five-finger. (c) Leon Perrie

I was recently surprised to find my plant of Aupouri coastal five-finger (Pseudopanax lessonii) swarming with flies. The flies were attracted to the flowers presumably by a feed of nectar on what was a hot, summer day. I could see at least three fly species, plus a bumblebee. Pollination is not a role we often… Read more »

Bio-blitzing Mana

  • The initial products of five hours on Mana Island: two herbarium presses containing specimens to be identified, plus a plastic bag full of seaweeds collected from beach drift for our phycological colleagues.  Leon Perrie, © Te Papa.
  • Antony being attacked by a head band of Calystegia silvatica (great bindweed). Leon Perrie, © Te Papa.
  • Centaurium erythraea (centaury); a weed from the gentian family. Leon Perrie, © Te Papa.
  • The distinctive forked hairs on the leaves of Leontodon taraxacoides (hawkbit) distinguish it from similar dandelion-type plants. Leon Perrie, © Te Papa.

The Mana Bioblitz  is currently on. A Bioblitz is a count of all the species in an area. I recently visited Mana Island with Antony, one of Te Papa’s Botany Collection Managers, to contribute to the botanical cause.