Posts tagged with Plants

How to learn ferns

  • Close up of the scales of Cyathea (left) and the hairs of Dicksonia (right). Photos Leon Perrie, © Te Papa.
  • Trichomanes venosum. In Trichomanes, the reproductive structures are enclosed by a tubular, often trumpet-like structure. Photo Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.
  • Cardiomanes reniforme, kidney fern. More closely related to Hymenophyllum than Trichomanes, although the reproductive structures are at least superficially more similar to the latter. Photo Leon Perrie. © Leon Perrie.
  • Tmesipteris elongata, a fork fern. More closely related to ferns than to seed plants or lycophytes. Nevertheless, the relationship is a distant one, and it doesn’t look very fern like. There are at least five species in New Zealand, and they are usually epiphytic on tree ferns. Photo Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.

Last weekend I was out with the Kapiti-Mana branch of Forest and Bird, giving them an introduction to ferns. A few weeks back, I gave a similar walking-talk at Otari-Wilton’s Bush in Wellington. Many people find ferns an appealing group to learn. Aside from their iconic status in New Zealand, good learning resources are available, and… Read more »

The small and the weedy: Foxton field trip

  • A huddle of prostrate people peering intently at the ground; can only mean a botanical society has fixated on some small plant. Photo © Leon Perrie.
  • The botanical society did not progress far through the tangled swamp forest vegetation of Round Bush/Omarupapako Scenic Reserve. However, we went far enough to encounter karaka (Corynocarpus laevigatus) and to debate its merits in the southern North Island, where some people consider it to be weedy. The large trunk at centre is a podocarp, while the trunk to the immediate left is a tall and reproducing but not particularly old karaka. Karaka seedlings are evident in the foreground. Photo © Leon Perrie.
  • Arrowgrass, Triglochin striata, is not actually a grass, and belongs to the unusual monocot family Juncaginaceae. The arrangement of the flowers and the narrow leaves are distinctive. Photo © Leon Perrie.
  • Intermixed Selliera rotundifolia, with the round leaves, and Lilaeopsis novae-zelandiae, with the jointed linear leaves. Selliera rotundifolia is only found in the south-west of the North Island. Photo © Leon Perrie.

I spent a couple of days of the long weekend with the Wellington Botanical Society, exploring the Foxton area, between Whanganui and Palmerston North. Much of the first and second days were spent in the sand dunes between Himatangi and Foxton Beach, and at Koitiata near Turakina.  Some surprising things can become weedy in the… 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 »

Wild plants in town – a homage

  • I love the way plants grow / all over the place. / Weeds, I read once, / are ‘plants out of place’. / But, who’s to say? / Who’s to say?  Image © to and courtesy of jMj.
  • Epuni Street / Aerial roots / a source of / endless fascination for me. / What am I taking in / from the air / just by / being in it.  Image © to and courtesy of jMj.
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  • Above Strathmore. / 6” Coastal battery / on the Hills above Strathmore / 70th Heavy Battery / Guns. Not much beside remains. / Taupata - / 6” too?  Image © to and courtesy of jMj.

Plants can grow in what appear to be the strangest places.  This can be frustrating for property owners (e.g., grass in the gutter; footpaths cracked by pohutukawa roots). But our view of plants is often from our own animal-centric perspective; unlike our zoological kin, an individual plant doesn’t have the option of moving to a… Read more »

Wellington Botanical Society Bulletin 2012

Mänuka, Leptospermum scoparium. One of many native plants put to many uses. Captain Cook used it with rimu to make beer.

The botanically-inclined may find something of interest in the just-published Wellington Botanical Society Bulletin. Number 54 includes: the uses of some common native plants. notes on the propagation of native plants. accounts of the diatoms and bryophytes recorded during the 2011 bioblitz on Mana Island. the use of names in botany. detailed accounts of the… Read more »

New Caledonian plants

  • Another threat to New Caledonia’s vegetation is browsing by introduced deer and pigs. Conservation International are trialling using the amount of browse on the fern Orthiopteris firma to monitor the effectiveness of animal control projects. Photo Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.
  • New Caledonia has a higher GDP per capita than New Zealand, principally due to nickel and copper mining. Mining operations are widely evident. Photo Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.
  • The large areas covered by Melaleuca trees are very reminiscent of Australia. But they are also testament to one of the major threats to New Caledonia’s vegetation – fire. The fern Dicranopteris linearis flourishes amongst the Melaleuca regeneration. Photo Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.
  • As I knelt to collect a fern, I was stunned to find myself surrounded by pitcher plants, Nepenthes vieillardii. The ‘pitchers’ are traps for catching insects. Photo Leon Perrie. © Te Papa.

Below are photos of some of the botanical/landscape highlights from the recent expedition to New Caledonia that I participated in. But first, a bit of background: New Zealand and New Caledonia both sit on the (largely) submerged continent Zealandia, which separated from Australia and the rest of Gondwana some 60-80 million years ago. Wikipedia’s page… Read more »

A new native plantain, Plantago udicola

  • Botanical illustration of Plantago udicola. Copyright Bobbi Angell.
  • Habitat of Plantago udicola from Lake Sylvester (WELT SP090374/A). Photo copyright Mei Lin Tay.
  • The new species, Plantago udicola from Lake Sylvester (WELT SP090375/A). Photo copyright Mei Lin Tay.
  • The new species, Plantago udicola from Lake Sylvester (WELT SP090375/A). Photo copyright Mei Lin Tay.

Victoria University Emeritus Professor Phil Garnock-Jones and I have just described a new species of native plantain, Plantago udicola. The name udicola means “dwelling or living in damp places” and is in reference to the types of sites the new species is usually found in. Of the 200 or so species of Plantago worldwide, there… Read more »

Transit of Venus Botany

Today is the transit of Venus, when that planet passes in front of the sun. Hopefully the bad weather blanketing much of New Zealand doesn’t preclude at least some people from observing the event. Observing the transit was one of Captain Cook’s primary objectives for the Endeavour expedition, and this was done in Tahiti in… Read more »

Talk: mapping NZ’s plants

Hooker’s spleenwort fern (Asplenium hookerianum) and its distribution in New Zealand based on specimens in Te Papa’s collection.

Next Tuesday night (27th March), I’m giving a talk at Wellington’s Otari Wilton’s Bush about how (and why) maps are generated from dried plant specimens in collections like those of Te Papa. I’ll also introduce some of the new internet tools that are making distribution information about New Zealand’s plants more readily available. Details: 7.30pm,… Read more »