How a retirement hobby has led to an expert eye for liverworts

How a retirement hobby has led to an expert eye for liverworts

Research associate Peter Beveridge (87) is having a very busy retirement: he recently described a new species of liverwort. Te Papa science researcher Lara Shepherd talked to Peter about how he came to be interested in these fascinating tiny plants.

Peter has had a long interest in biology and initially worked as a biology teacher. He then spent many years working in the education department, and then as an education consultant until his retirement.

Peter’s interest in plants led him to attend the annual John Child Bryophyte Workshop for the first time in 1999. Two years later he began volunteering at our herbarium, our collection of dried plant specimens. Since then he has added 6319 bryophyte specimens to the collection, making him the fifth most prolific collector of plants in the herbarium’s history.

Peter in action at Mohi Bush, Hawke’s Bay. Liverworts are so small that they require close inspection with a hand lens or microscope to distinguish their important features.
Peter in action at Mohi Bush, Hawke’s Bay. Liverworts are so small that they require close inspection with a hand lens or microscope to distinguish their important features. Photo by Leon Perrie. Te Papa

Peter initially focused his interest on mosses. Many of his early specimens were collected on field trips with Wellington liverwort expert Rodney Lewington. While collecting mosses, Peter would pass any ‘by-catch’ liverworts to Rodney but he eventually became interested in the liverworts too. There are more species of liverwort in New Zealand than mosses, and Peter liked their greater diversity of forms.

Liverwort experts Rodney Lewington (left), who passed away in 2018, and David Glenny (right) of Landcare Research have acted as mentors to Peter.
Liverwort experts Rodney Lewington (left), who passed away in 2018, and David Glenny (right) of Landcare Research have acted as mentors to Peter. Photo by Leon Perrie. Te Papa

Recently, Peter became interested in the Cheilolejeunea liverworts, a group that occurs in a number of countries but which has been little studied in New Zealand. Peter and colleagues have just described a new species, Cheilolejeunea morganii. The leafy shoots of this new species are only 1mm across so it is understandable why this species was previously overlooked! Cheilolejeunea morganii brings the total number of New Zealand Cheilolejeunea species to ten but Peter is busy describing more new species, so this number will increase.

A Cheilolejeunea from Zealandia. The shoots are only 1mm across.
A Cheilolejeunea liverwort from Zealandia. The shoots are only 1mm across. Photo by Peter Beveridge. Te Papa

Our Te Taiao | Nature exhibition provides an opportunity to get up close and personal with some liverworts – including the world’s biggest! Peter helped with both the collection of these specimens and their identification.

Read Peter’s paper:

Beveridge P, Glenny D, Shepherd L. 2019. Cheilolejeunea morganii Bever. & Glenny (Lejeuneaceae, Marchantiopsida), a newly described species from lowland indigenous forest sites in New Zealand. Journal of Bryology

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    I found this article very interesting, as it was a subject I had not known about before this, so Thank You.
    Janet

  2. Avatar

    Excellent to see Peter’s dedication to this important Gondwanic group which has a classic Gondwanic distribution (East Africa, South East Asia, Australasia). Hope he continues to have good luck with the collecting.

    John Grehan

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