Posts written by Lara Shepherd

New Zealand plants abroad.

  • Kohukohu (Pittosporum tenuifolium) in a front garden in Bristol, UK. Photo credit: Lara Shepherd.
  • A broadleaf (Griselinia littoralis) hedge by a row of terrace houses, Bristol, UK. Photo credit: Lara Shepherd.
  • Flaxes (Phormium tenax), hebes and kohukohu in a suburban garden in Bristol, UK. Photo credit: Lara Shepherd.
  • White flowered hebe in a town planting in the Bristol town centre. Photo credit: Lara Shepherd.

New Zealand plants have a long history of cultivation overseas. In the UK one of the most well known New Zealand plants is the ‘Torquay palm’, which we know as the cabbage tree (Cordyline australis). Cabbage trees, which botanically-speaking are not palms, were first grown in the UK in the early nineteenth century. This species… Read more »

Ferns of Bristol’s stone walls

  • Maidenhair spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes). Photo credit: Lara Shepherd.
  • Common polypody (Polypodium vulgare). Photo credit: Lara Shepherd.
  • Two forms of wall rue (Asplenium ruta-muraria). The plant on the right reminds me of New Zealand blanket fern. Photo credit: Lara Shepherd
  • The sori of Asplenium scolopendrium, said to look like centipede legs. Photo credit: Lara Shepherd

Whilst recently holidaying in Bristol in the UK I was amazed at the abundance and variety of ferns growing on the stone walls around the city.  The spleenwort or Asplenium ferns seem to be the most common ferns of this habitat. This genus also occurs in New Zealand and includes our hen and chickens fern. … Read more »

Behind the scenes: A week in the life of a natural history curator

  • A wing being prepared by Catherine for incorporation into the collection.
  • Alan with a shearwater skeleton prepared by Catherine.
  • Alan looking through Te Papa's prion skin collection.
  • Alan and Trish looking at birds eggs in Te Papa's collection. Te Papa has recently improved their storage method of these fragile items.

What does a Te Papa curator do? I spent last week following Te Papa’s terrestrial vertebrate curator Alan Tennyson to find out. Here are some of the main highlights:  Visitors Monday saw Alan meet with Trish Nugent-Lyne, a collection manager at Whanganui Regional Museum. Te Papa staff are helping Trish prepare an articulated dog skeleton… Read more »

How to DNA sex birds.

Sex chromosomes in birds and mammals.

The males and females of many bird species are difficult to distinguish by their appearance (peacocks are a notable exception). There are many situations where it is useful to know the sex of birds including captive breeding programmes, behavioural studies and even species delimitation in extinct taxa. DNA sexing provides a simple and quick way… Read more »

A few more botanical highlights from the Foxton fieldtrip….and a katipo spider!

  • Taking a break from botanizing Viv McGlynn managed to locate this female Katipo spider under a piece of driftwood in the dunes.
  • Sand coprosma (Coprosma acerosa). The fruit colour of this species can vary but the plants we saw in the dunes near Foxton had striking blue fruit.
  • The keen eyes of Bot Soc member Bev Abbott spotted the tiny fruit of sand gunnera (Gunnera arenaria).
  • The distinctive asymmetric flower of Selliera rotundifolia.

I also spent an enjoyable few days over Easter on the Wellington Botanical Society fieldtrip (see Leon’s blog about the trip). Here are a few more photos from the trip. It is difficult to believe that this tiny native species is in the same genus as the huge Chilean rhubarb. The leaves of this weedy… Read more »

Is this the world’s biggest nettle leaf?

Ongaonga leaf - note the ruler starts at 500 mm.

Whilst recently chasing seabirds on Titi Island we came across tree nettles (ongaonga, Urtica ferox) with super-sized leaves. The largest leaf we measured was 28 cm long, much longer than the maximum leaf length of 18 cm given for this species in the Flora of New Zealand. Perhaps the abundant seabird droppings on this island… Read more »

Oops-a-daisy! How many flowers do you see?

  • Marlborough rock daisy disc floret (top) and ray floret (bottom). Note the long petal on the ray floret.
  • Marlborough rock daisy ray floret.
  • Marlborough rock daisy disc floret. Note the reduced petals and long stigma.
  • Marlborough rock daisies (Pachystegia insignis).

How many flowers do you see in the photo below? Two is the obvious answer, but there are far more than two flowers in the picture. Each daisy ‘flower’ is actually made up of numerous tiny flowers, also called florets. The Marlborough rock daisies pictured above have two types of florets. Around the outside are… Read more »

DNA finds kiwi’s origins: Introducing Stewie

Articulated kiwi skeleton from Te Papa's collection. Photo by Lara Shepherd.

A number of biological specimens in Te Papa’s collection, particularly old specimens, lack information about when and where they were collected. This information may have been lost since the specimen was collected or was simply not recorded at the time. However, all is not lost! Sometimes we can use DNA to determine where a specimen… Read more »