Posts categorized as Biodiversity

A new tree fern

The newly recognised Dicksonia lanata subsp. hispida. Fairly common in the northern North Island, usually in kauri forests. Photo Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.

New Zealand has a new tree fern – kind of. Te Papa Research Fellow Patrick Brownsey and I have recently recognised a subspecies within the stumpy tree fern, tuokura, Dicksonia lanata.  The new name is Dicksonia lanata subspecies hispida.  It is only kind of a new tree fern, as it was first recognised as something different… Read more »

Help hunt for kakabeak

Kakabeak (kowhai ngutu-kākā, Clianthus maximus) in cultivation in Wellington. Photo © Leon Perrie.

If you’re on the east coast of the North Island during this spring and summer, the Department of Conservation would like your help! Please look out for wild plants of the striking, red-flowered kakabeak. Department of Conservation’s blog post “Keep an eye out for kakabeak”. Kakabeak (kowhai ngutu-kākā, Clianthus maximus) is now Critically Endangered. Its… Read more »

The Great Kereru Count 2014 – 22nd September to 5th October

Kereru_count

This blog was written by Mel Dash, who is currently on maternity leave from Te Papa Kererū (New Zealand’s native wood pigeon) are making a comeback but they still need our help so Forest and Bird’s Kiwi Conservation Club (KCC), Kereru Discovery and partners have organised a two week Kererū Count to get an idea… Read more »

Subtropical tree fern challenge

  • 1 C. Reproductive structures of Cyathea milnei, from the Kermadec Islands, in cultivation at Otari-Wilton’s Bush, Wellington. Photo Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.
  • 1 B. Cyathea milnei, from the Kermadec Islands, in cultivation at Otari-Wilton’s Bush, Wellington. Photo Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.
  • 1 A. Cyathea milnei, from the Kermadec Islands, in cultivation at Otari-Wilton’s Bush, Wellington. Photo Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.
  • 2 A. Cyathea kermadecensis, from the Kermadec Islands, in cultivation at Otari-Wilton’s Bush, Wellington. Photo Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.

I spent yesterday afternoon in the fernery of Otari-Wilton’s Bush, examining two tree fern species from New Zealand’s subtropical Kermadec Islands. More details below, including ‘why?’. But first, a challenge… Each of these Kermadec tree ferns is closely related to a (different) mainland New Zealand species. Can you tell which mainland species? One of the… Read more »

Seasonality in birds and birdwatchers

  • Shining cuckoo graph
  • Shining cuckoos are often secretive, but are unmistakeable when seen well. Image: Duncan Watson, New Zealand Birds Online
  • An adult grey warbler (left) feeds a recently fledged shining cuckoo chick. Image: Malcolm Pullman, New Zealand Birds Online
  • An adult shining cuckoo shows its iridescent dorsal plumage. Image: Nathan Hill, New Zealand Birds Online

One of the characteristic sounds of spring in New Zealand is the clear, upward-slurred whistle of the shining cuckoo. Along with its long-tailed cousin, the two cuckoos are the only New Zealand forest birds that migrate away from New Zealand after breeding. This is in sharp contrast to temperate countries in Europe, Asia and North… 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 »

Doodia rasp ferns become Blechnum hard ferns

  • Blechnum neglectum, previously Pteridoblechnum neglectum, found only in north-eastern Australia. Right: Blechnum diversifolium, from New Caledonia. Blechnum diversifolium is more closely related to the species previously placed in Pteridoblechnum than it is to most species of Blechnum. Photos Leon Perrie. Composite © Te Papa.
  • Blechnaceae ferns are common in several parts of the world. For instance, all New Zealanders will be familiar with kiokio and its relatives in the genus Blechnum, colloquially known as “hard ferns” because of their coriaceous fronds.  Kiokio (Blechnum novae-zelandiae) is a common sight on road cuttings, amongst other habitats, and occurs throughout the country. Photo Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.
  • Left: rasp fern, Blechnum parrisiae, previously called Doodia australis, occurs in both Australia and New Zealand. Right: Blechnum gibbum, from New Caledonia. Blechnum gibbum is more closely related to the species formerly placed in Doodia than it is to most species of Blechnum. Photos Leon Perrie. Composite © Te Papa.
  • Blechnum orientale, in Fiji. Most species of Blechnum in New Zealand are “dimorphic”, with obviously different fertile and sterile fronds. (The exception is Blechnum fraseri, which is only partially dimorphic.) However, many overseas Blechnum are “monomorphic” like Blechnum orientale, which is widespread in the tropics from Asia through Australia to the Pacific.  Photo Leon Perrie. (c) Te Papa.

A key principle in the scientific classification of animals, plants, and other living things is that the system of scientific names reflects their relationships. This is because there is only a single evolutionary history, and it provides an objective basis by which to name life. As we learn more about these evolutionary relationships, scientific names… Read more »

Colossal New Addition to Te Papa’s Scientific Collections

  • Storage11
  • Powder Coated Cabinet
  • Jar and pail storage at Te Papa's collections facility. Photo: Rick Webber, Copyright Te Papa.
  • jars

Today we’ve been hearing about the most recent addition to Te Papa’s scientific collections, a new colossal squid Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni. We’re playing host to a dozen or so media representatives as well as our own live-streaming film crew, who are following intently the activity of five visiting squid scientists from AUT, led by Dr Kat… Read more »

Common plant names for Māori Language Week

  • Whauwhaupaku is readily recognised by its leaves with (usually) five stalked leaflets. It is common in the North Island, and extends into the South Island, with a southern limit around Dunedin. Photo © Leon Perrie.
  • Tarata is a widespread tree that is also common in cultivation, because of its fast growth and lemon-scented flowers. The leaves, when crushed, also smell of lemon. Photo © Leon Perrie.
  • Tawhai trees dominate much of New Zealand’s remaining forests, being adapted to cold (or dry) conditions. If you want to be more specific, tawhairaunui can be used for red and hard beech, and tawhairauriki for black and mountain beech. The photo shows silver beech, known simply as tawhai. Photo © Leon Perrie.
  • Porokaiwhiri is a common and widespread small tree. Photo © Leon Perrie.

For many of New Zealand’s indigenous plants, the Māori name is the ‘common’ name, and English names are rarely, if ever, used; think rimu, tōtara, kauri, pōhutukawa, and mamaku. Other species have both Māori and English names, but it is the latter that is predominant, at least in my experience. Below are some such examples… Read more »