If you have recently travelled along SH1 between Wellington and Paekakariki you may have noticed that some of the roadside cuttings and banks are tinged with pink. The culprit is the daisy pink ragwort (Senecio glastifolius). Pink ragwort is native to a small area of coastline in South Africa and was first recordedRead more

A cluster of lemonwood flowers. Photo: Lara Shepherd

Have you noticed a strong sweet smell while walking past any trees lately? You might be smelling the flowers of lemonwood/tarata (Pittosporum eugenioides). This native New Zealand tree is better known for its lemon-scented leaves than its flowers, which are small and pale. However, the flowers produce an almost overpoweringRead more

Showy dryandra (Banksia formosa), Stirling Ranges.dryandra

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 toRead more

Delaney collecting Lycopodiella diffusa from a swamp near Charleston, West Coast. Photo: Lara Shepherd.

Last week Victoria University MSc student Delaney Burnard and I had a quick trip to the South Island to collect lycophytes for Delaney’s research. Lycophytes are sometimes called “clubmosses”, but they are not related to mosses. They are actually more closely related to ferns and seed plants. Lycophytes differ fromRead more

A speargrass weevil (Lyperobius clarkei) on an on the speargrass Aciphylla ferox speargrass.

As well as impressive plants, Mount Owen and the Marino Mountains are also zoologically interesting. The wet weather may have prevented us reaching the summit of Mount Owen but it did bring out the slugs and snails. We spotted a giant leaf-veined slug (Amphikonophora gigantea) beside the track on theRead more

Aciphylla ferox (fierce speargrass) growing out of a marble fissure on the flanks of Mount Owen. Photo: Lara Shepherd.

Over the holidays I was fortunate to spend a few days botanising the Marino Mountains, including Mount Owen, in north-west Nelson’s Kahurangi National Park.  Kahurangi National Park  is one of the most botanically interesting regions in New Zealand. Nearly half of New Zealand’s native plant species and 80% of ourRead more

An unfurling frond of a Dicksonia perriei, Mt Panie, New Caledonia. Photo: Leon Perrie

A new species of tree fern has recently been named after Te Papa botany curator and fern expert Leon Perrie. The fern, Dicksonia perriei, occurs only in New Caledonia mostly on acidic soils at altitudes above 1000m, in areas of high rainfall. The new species is related to the three otherRead more

Amorphophallus titanum in flower, Auckland Domain Wintergarden, 01 December 2013. Photo credit Auckland Council.

Yesterday in Auckland there was a long line of people waiting for a glimpse of something special. This wasn’t the queue for a Justin Bieber concert – the star of this show was a plant! The big attraction was a huge inflorescence of a titan arum (Amorphophallus titanium – the scientificRead more

This week is Save Kiwi week. Te Papa researchers have a long history of studying kiwi. Our kiwi researchers include: Sarah Jamieson, who previously worked at Massey University studying the breeding ecology and habitat preferences of North Island brown kiwi. Alan Tennyson, who led the formal description of a new kiwi speciesRead more

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 theseRead more

Snarge identified as long tailed skua. Photo by Alan Tennyson.

Birds can cause serious damage to aircraft. A recent example is the 2009 US Airways flight that hit a flock of Canada geese on take-off and had to make an emergency landing on the Hudson River. In this case no one was seriously injured but there are many examples ofRead more

Early Miocene mosquito from the Dominican Republic. Photo by Didier Desouens.

I first saw the movie Jurassic Park as a high school student when it was released 20 years ago.  At the time it led to a sudden rise in the number of children obsessed with dinosaurs and wanting to be palaeontologists.  But for me it was all about the scientists workingRead more