Coastal kōwhai in the south of its range – natural or planted?

Coastal kōwhai (Sophora chathamica). This species can be distinguished from other kōwhai species by its overlapping leaflets and lack of divaricating stage when it is young. Photo by Leon Perrie.

Science researcher Lara Shepherd explores the distribution of kōwhai in New Zealand – largely found in the north and likely introduced in the south.  Coastal kōwhai (Sophora chathamica) has a very unusual distribution. Some of its outlying populations are suggested to have been planted by Maōri. We recently published our research studying the relationships of all eight New Zealand kōwhai… Read more »

Cuckoos and their toxic prey – ‘urticated’ inside and out

  • Shining cuckoo. Photograph by Nathan Hill, New Zealand Birds Online
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  • Red admiral butterfly caterpillar (pale morph). Photograph by Norm Twigge
  • Red admiral butterfly (Vanessa gonerilla). Photograph by Colin Miskelly, Te Papa

Cuckoos can stomach toxic caterpillars, but it appears they are also impervious to being stung externally, as bird expert Colin Miskelly discovers. A previous blog on this topic referred to shining cuckoos seeking out and eating prey that are toxic to other birds – including caterpillars with urticating hairs. ‘Urticating’ refers to hollow spines that… Read more »

Young photographers display their work in a virtual gallery

Child viewing virtual art gallery

Te Papa Senior Advisor, Museum Education Tara Fagan spends some time with young children as they get creative in virtual reality. The Hīnātore learning lab had its youngest group of visitors recently. Ten four-year-olds, and their teachers, from Tai Tamariki Kindergarten visited the lab as part of their visual arts programme. They were building on their knowledge of… Read more »

Elephants on your dinner table – looking at an old trade catalogue

Elephant (detail) from catalogue

Librarian Christine Kiddey browses for jelly moulds and other assorted household items in a trade catalogue from 1850. What do you do with all those trade catalogues and advertisements that come through your letterbox? You probably glance through them and throw them out. But imagine someone looking at those same catalogues a century and a half from… Read more »

The strange things we find in our donation box (and what we do with them)

The back of a 10 shilling note

If you’ve ever visited Te Papa you’ve probably seen our donation box – and if you’ve put some dollars (or Euro, or yen) in there, we thank you. But it’s not all brand spanking new $2 coins that we receive. Financial accounting manager Peter Corley dives into the box and discovers some of the more interesting items we’ve… Read more »

In memory of Andrew Pfeiffer – Royal New Zealand Ballet’s ‘Master of the Wardrobe’

Andrew Pfeiffer - Wardrobe Master of the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Credit Susana Lei’ataua  Courtesy of the Royal New Zealand Ballet.

Senior history curator Claire Regnault pays tribute to New Zealand costumier and ‘Master of the Wardrobe’ at the Royal New Zealand Ballet, Andrew Pfeiffer. On Friday 3 March, Andrew Pfeiffer passed away at the age of 69 at Mary Potter Hospice in Wellington, surrounded by friends. Andrew, who was also known as Drew, or simply… Read more »

Paul Cullen (1949-2017) – tribute to ‘witty and whimsical’ New Zealand artist

Paul Cullen stands beside his artwork A Garden

We are saddened to hear of the recent death of Auckland artist Paul Cullen (1949-2017). He was a constantly intelligent presence in the contemporary art scene for over 40 years, and his final illness only served to catalyse his productivity to the very end. Poignantly, his exhibition Provisional Arrangements at Two Rooms, Auckland, only closed on 11… Read more »

What can kōwhai tell us about the location of New Zealand’s forests during the ice ages?

  • A flower-laded large-leaved kōwhai (Sophora tetraptera) from the Wairarapa. Photo: Leon Perrie
  • A flower-laded large-leaved kōwhai (Sophora tetraptera) from the Wairarapa.
  • Collecting genetic samples from prostrate kōwhai (Sophora prostrata) on the POrt Hills. This species is restricted to the eastern South Island and has zig-zag branches with small leaves and flowers. Photo: Leon Perrie.
  • Collecting genetic samples from prostrate kōwhai (Sophora prostrata) on the POrt Hills. This species is restricted to the eastern South Island and has zig-zag branches with small leaves and flowers. Photo: Leon Perrie.

Science researcher Lara Shepherd explores kōwhai trees, one of New Zealand’s most widely recognised native plants and our unofficial national flower. Did you realise that we actually have eight species of kōwhai in New Zealand? Our DNA research investigating the relationships of these kōwhai species and where kōwhai trees were located during the ice ages has… Read more »

The global hunt for the original wandering albatross

"Chocolate albatross" in Vienna

Vertebrate Curator Alan Tennyson explores the history of the name of the wandering albatross and the hunt for the original specimens. The wandering albatross is one of the world’s greatest ocean wanderers, with individuals circumnavigating the Southern Ocean and travelling 120,000 km in a year. These albatrosses have been among the most high-profile of seabirds ever since… Read more »

Can New Zealand sustain its 119-year-old pension scheme as the population ages?

Sign, ’Polling Booth’, 1969, New Zealand, by Ministry of Justice. Gift of Chief Electoral Office, Ministry of Justice, 2007. CC BY-NC-ND licence. Te Papa (GH011741)

As the government announces plans to raise the pension age for the first time since Richard Seddon passed old-age pensions in 1898, history curator Kirstie Ross questions whether New Zealand can afford to support its aging population based on historic practices and attitudes. Historians agree that the 1898 law introducing old-age pensions was one of… Read more »