Posts categorized as Plants

Seaweed, seaweed everywhere and not a plant to eat

What type of crab is this?

Like many Kiwis, to me there are only three types of seaweed: Seaweed Beachus – seaweed washed up at the beach; Seaweed Sushius – seaweed used in sushi; and Seaweed Fish Linius – seaweed that your fishing line gets tangled in. But that terrible seaweed joke, aside from demonstrating my woeful ignorance of seaweed, doesn’t… Read more »

Moss, liverwort, and lichen Workshop

  • Te Papa Research Fellow Patrick Brownsey collecting a moss near National Park.   The collected material is stored in an envelope folded from a sheet of A4 paper; each collection goes into a separate envelope. Photo Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.
  • A so-called leafy liverwort, Lepidolaena.  Most liverworts, and many mosses, are usually found in damp, shaded habitats; I’ve taken this one to a sunny spot for a better photograph.  Photo Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.
  • A crustose lichen, semi-embedded in the surface of a rock, high on Mount Ruapehu.  The black patches at left are the moss Andreaea, an alpine specialist.  Photo Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.
  • Dicranoloma mosses are one of the forest-dominants in New Zealand.  They are not big (although they are quite big for a moss), but they are very common.  This is Dicranoloma menziesii.  Photo Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.

Nearly 50 people are attending this year’s John Child Bryophyte and Lichen Workshop in Ohakune.  Bryophytes include mosses and liverworts.  The Workshop is a focussed opportunity to study these small plants.  Although usually overlooked, they actually make a huge contribution to forest biomass and functioning.  Mosses and liverworts reproduce by spores, as do ferns.  Spores… Read more »

Forgotten Highway ferns

  • Umbrella fern, tapuwae kotuku, Sticherus cunninghamii.  Most species in this family have fronds that repeatedly split into two. Photo Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.
  • Sweet fern, Pteris macilenta.  The reproductive structures are in lines along the margins of the frond segments, and the veins are obviously netted (diverging and coming back together). Photo Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.
  • Single crape fern, heruheru, Leptopteris hymenophylloides.  Although translucent like a filmy fern, this species grows much bigger and the spore-producing structures are scattered over the frond undersides.  Photo Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.
  • Hairy fern, Lastreopsis hispida.  A shield fern with its reproductive structures in circular aggregates, this species is easily recognised by the hairy bristles on its frond stalk. Photo Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.

Three of Te Papa’s botanists (plant scientists) are currently at the annual John Child Bryophyte and Lichen Workshop, held this year in Ohakune.    A small group including the Te Papa team spent the week before the Workshop exploring the Forgotten Highway (State Highway 43) between Stratford and Taumarunui, for mosses and liverworts, and ferns as… Read more »

A plague of flax weevils – a conservation hyper-success story

  • Dead flax bushes as the flax weevil release site on Mana Island, Nov 2013. Image: Jeff Hall, Department of Conservation
  • Tui feeding on flax nectar. Image: Craig McKenzie, New Zealand Birds Online
  • Flax weevils on a flax flower stalk at night on Mana Island, Nov 2013. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Flax weevils browse on an immature flax flower spike at night on Mana Island, Nov 2013. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa

Most people think of weevils as little maggoty grubs that infest stored grain products. Which is true, but the reality is that the weevil family is the most diverse family of organisms on the planet, with more than 50,000 species. Weevils are beetles, and adults are characterised by having a long snout and antennae bent… Read more »

A new species of filmy fern

The newly-described rainforest filmy fern, Hymenophyllum pluviatile. Photo Leon Perrie. Copyright Te Papa.

Te Papa’s biodiversity scientists regularly describe new species of plants and animals. Just added to this list is another New Zealand fern. This new species is a Hymenophyllum filmy fern. Hymenophyllum means thin-leaved. The fronds of most species are only one cell thick, giving them a translucent appearance. We have named the new species Hymenophyllum… Read more »

Poor Knights lily: a stunning, yet undervalued, New Zealand native plant

Poor Knight’s lilies in a garden next to the Welsh Dragon Bar, bordered by Wakefield and Kent Terraces. Photo credit: Lara Shepherd

Something spectacular is happening around Wellington – Poor Knights lilies (Raupo taranga; Xeronema callistemon) are bursting into flower! In contrast to the tiny inconspicuous white flowers typical of many New Zealand endemic plants, Poor Knights lilies have bright red flower spikes that look a little like bottlebrushes. But despite these flamboyant displays Poor Knight’s lilies… Read more »

A native species re-recorded for Wellington

  • Underside of a frond of Asplenium lamprophyllum, showing the comparatively long sori (reproductive structures). Photo © Leon Perrie.
  • Asplenium lamprophyllum. Photo © Leon Perrie.
  • Distribution map of Asplenium lamprophyllum, based on specimens in Te Papa’s herbarium. Other herbaria have records of the species from northern Taranaki and Whanganui. Click for a page with a zoomable map.
  • Asplenium_lamprophyllum_2_Ngauranga4_reduced

The Wellington Botanical Society has just added* (* actually it is confirmed, rather than added; see update below) another species to the list of native plants known from Wellington – the fern Asplenium lamprophyllum. To find (* rediscover) such a relatively big species so close to New Zealand’s capital city may seem a little surprising. Just… Read more »

Ambiguous plant life – art daisies and hard ferns

Colenso’s hard fern, Blechnum colensoi, with a fertile frond at centre. That it is brown rather than black indicates that the spores have largely been shed. Photo: Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.

Alan Reynolds’s Saga is one of the paintings currently on display in Te Papa’s Ngā Toi exhibition. It is described as a winter landscape, with dead plants bursting from the frozen earth. Ngā Toi’s On The Wall description. Amongst the bleakness, my eyes are drawn to just-a-little-right of centre, where the white elongate structure with… Read more »

Arthropteris climbing ferns

Arthropteris_tenella_climbing_reduced

I’m a co-author of a just-published scientific paper examining the evolution and classification of the Arthropteris climbing ferns. The paper was a real international collaboration, involving authors from China, Netherlands, France, United Kingdom, and New Zealand. It is unclear how many species there are of Arthropteris – probably somewhere between 10 and 20. They occur… Read more »