Cordyline australis on the Munro Trail, Lanai Island, Hawaii. Photo by Forest and Kim Starr (http://www.starrenvironmental.com/)

My previous blog featured New Zealand native plants that are cultivated overseas. However, some of our native plants, including many of the species I recently saw in UK gardens, have gone ‘rogue’ and are considered invasive species in some countries. For example our pohutukawa (New Zealand Christmas tree; Metrosideros excelsa)Read more

Torquay palm (cabbage tree; Cordyline australis) planted along the Torquay waterfront. Photo credit: Lara Shepherd.

New Zealand plants have a long history of cultivation overseas. In the UK one of the most well known New Zealand plants is the ‘Torquay palm’, which we know as the cabbage tree (Cordyline australis). Cabbage trees, which botanically-speaking are not palms, were first grown in the UK in theRead more

Underside of a rustyback frond showing the orange-brown hairs that give this fern its name. Photo credit: Lara Shepherd.

Whilst recently holidaying in Bristol in the UK I was amazed at the abundance and variety of ferns growing on the stone walls around the city. The spleenwort or Asplenium ferns seem to be the most common ferns of this habitat. This genus also occurs in New Zealand and includesRead more

Sex chromosomes in birds and mammals.

The males and females of many bird species are difficult to distinguish by their appearance (peacocks are a notable exception). There are many situations where it is useful to know the sex of birds including captive breeding programmes, behavioural studies and even species delimitation in extinct taxa. DNA sexing providesRead more

Recently I have been obtaining DNA sequences from some of the fern samples collected by Te Papa Botany curator Leon Perrie on his recent trip to New Caledonia. We aim to determine the relationships of these New Caledonian ferns to other ferns around the world, including those from New Zealand.Read more

Tongue of a defrosted broad-billed prion.

Genetic research requires a small amount of tissue from animal or plant specimens to be destroyed in order to obtain DNA. Te Papa’s bird team recently pondered the best way to sample tissue for DNA whilst causing a minimal amount of damage to seabird specimens. In July 2011 a periodRead more

Te Papa curator Colin Miskelly checks out a giant ongaonga leaf. Photo credit: Lara Shepherd

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 abundantRead more

Articulated kiwi skeleton from Te Papa's collection. Photo by Lara Shepherd.

A number of biological specimens in Te Papa’s collection, particularly old specimens, lack information about when and where they were collected. This information may have been lost since the specimen was collected or was simply not recorded at the time. However, all is not lost! Sometimes we can use DNARead more