Posts written by Lara Shepherd

Last week Te Papa Botany curator Leon Perrie and I attended the Uawa BioBlitz in Tolaga Bay. Organized by the Allan Wilson Centre and Groundtruth, the BioBlitz was an intense 24 hours of species discovery. Scientists from a variety of organisations were joined by members of the local community, including kids from the Tolaga Bay… Read more »

Living life on the edge – plants of screes

Notothlaspi australe, Parachute Rock track, Lake Rotoiti.  Photo: Lara Shepherd.

Looking at the photos below, you wouldn’t expect these unstable rockslides, called screes, to be home to anything. But take the time to look a little closer and you’ll find a number of native New Zealand plants that have adapted to living in just such seemingly inhospitable environments. In early January I spent a week… Read more »

Miniature Hikes: a public art installation in celebration of Wellington’s wild places.

  • Crystal Hut, Aro Valley. Photo: Lara Shepherd.
  • Crystal Hut, Aro Valley. Photo: Lara Shepherd.
  • The logbook for the Mt Victoria Hut is on a pulley system under the hut.
  • Robin Hut, Red Rocks, hunkering down against the weather. Photo: Lara Shepherd.

If you want to get outside this summer and explore Wellington’s wild places then consider visiting the miniature huts created for the public art project Miniature Hikes. This series of public sculptures are hidden in some of Wellington’s most scenic spots including Red Rocks, Matiu Somes Island and Mt Albert. Local artists Kemi Whitwell and Niko Leyden of Kemi Niko… Read more »

A Natural History of Christmas Part 2: Underneath the mistletoe…..

Red mistletoe (Peraxilla tetrapetela) Temple Stream, Ram Hill, Otago. Photo: Leon Perrie.

Christmas trees, carol singing, Christmas stockings – many Northern Hemisphere Christmas traditions have been brought to New Zealand. One that we haven’t ‘embraced’ is kissing under the mistletoe. I wonder why not? Is it because of our reserved kiwi natures or is it our mistletoes…….? There are around 1300 species of mistletoe worldwide and all are… Read more »

A blue fairy, pink candy, a crab-lipped spider, several donkeys and a flying duck.

  • Lilac sun orchid (Thelymitra cornicina), Maringup. Photo: Leon Perrie.
  • Slender hammer orchid (Drakaea gracilis), Albany. Photo: Lara Shepherd.
  • Tall leek orchid (Prasophyllum elatum), Balingup. Photo: Leon Perrie.
  • Flying duck orchid (Paracaleana nigrita), Maringup. Photo: Leon Perrie.

Not only do south-western Australian orchids have imaginative common names but their flowers are arguably some of the most stunning in this biodiversity hotspot. The flowers of the 320 or so species have a wide range of colours and shapes. Many orchids don’t produce nectar to attract insects to spread their pollen, instead using deception… Read more »

An invasion of pink ragwort.

Pink ragwort plant, coast near Titahi Bay. Photo: Lara Shepherd

If you have recently travelled along SH1 between Wellington and Paekakariki you may have noticed that some of the roadside cuttings and banks are tinged with pink. The culprit is the daisy pink ragwort (Senecio glastifolius). Pink ragwort is native to a small area of coastline in South Africa and was first recorded in New Zealand in Gisborne… Read more »

New Zealand’s second nicest-smelling flowers now in bloom!

A cluster of lemonwood flowers. Photo: Lara Shepherd

Have you noticed a strong sweet smell while walking past any trees lately? You might be smelling the flowers of lemonwood/tarata (Pittosporum eugenioides). This native New Zealand tree is better known for its lemon-scented leaves than its flowers, which are small and pale. However, the flowers produce an almost overpowering honey-like fragrance when they bloom… Read more »

Charles Darwin was unimpressed with the south coast of Western Australia when he visited in March 1836 calling it ‘dull and uninteresting’. If, however, he had visited during the spring wildflower season its likely he would have come to the opposite conclusion. These days botanically-inclined tourists, such as myself, flock to southwestern Australia during wildflower season…. Read more »

Last week Victoria University MSc student Delaney Burnard and I had a quick trip to the South Island to collect lycophytes for Delaney’s research. Lycophytes are sometimes called “clubmosses”, but they are not related to mosses. They are actually more closely related to ferns and seed plants. Lycophytes differ from seed plants in lacking seeds,… Read more »

Past and present fauna of Mt Owen, north-west Nelson

A speargrass weevil (Lyperobius clarkei) on an on the speargrass Aciphylla ferox speargrass.

As well as impressive plants, Mount Owen and the Marino Mountains are also zoologically interesting. The wet weather may have prevented us reaching the summit of Mount Owen but it did bring out the slugs and snails. We spotted a giant leaf-veined slug (Amphikonophora gigantea) beside the track on the lower flanks of the mountain…. Read more »