Sonchus grandifolius just starting to flower Te Henga. Image: Peter J. de Lange

Sow thistle gets a name revival and a little rusty

Last year the Chatham Islands lost one of its unique genera. The endemic Chatham Islands sow thistle was originally described by New Zealand botanist Thomas Kirk (1828–1898) as a new species of Sonchus, S. grandifolius (Kirk 1894). Then in 1965 botanist Loufty Boulos transferred S. grandifolius and the Australian endemic S. megalocarpus to a new genus Embergeria (Eichler 1965). Later Nicholas Lander (Lander 1976) transferred the Australian Embergeria megalocarpus to another new endemic Australian genus Actites leaving the Chatham Islands E. grandifolius the sole representative of the genus Embergeria, which by default was now a Chatham Islands endemic.

Chatham Island linen flax

New Plant Threat Listing Includes Chatham’s Species

The May 2012 threat assessment of the New Zealand Indigenous Vascular Plant flora is now published (see de Lange et al. 2013). The list which covers the entire indigenous vascular plant flora, including that of the Chatham Islands and 166 informally recognised, ‘tag name’ entities is now available at  […]

Lepidium oblitum flowers

New Endemic Plants for the Chatham Islands

As progress toward the preparation of a Chatham Islands Flora continues, the number of endemic vascular plants accepted for the Chatham Islands has now increased from 38 to 42 with the formal recognition of three new scurvy grasses and one new hook sedge (oft known as bastard grass) from the islands.

David Crockett with taiko in 1978. Photo: Taiko Trust

35 Years since the ‘extinct’ taiko was re-discovered

Bird experts and Chatham Islanders told David Crockett he was chasing a taipo (ghost), but the Whangarei man persisted, and 35 years ago this week, the taiko was re-discovered. The Taiko Trust, a local conservation organisation on the Chathams, is marking the 35th anniversary of the taiko (magenta petrel or […]

Caloplaca maculata – Collected from type locality, south of Waitangi Wharf, Chatham Islands. Image: Allison Knight

Sole Chatham Islands endemic lichen discovered on south Otago Coastline

Despite a remarkable level of endemicity in the Chatham Islands vascular plant flora (e.g., clubmosses, whisk ferns, ferns, and flowering plants) (de Lange et al. 2011) the islands have virtually no endemic non-vascular plants (e.g., hornworts, liverworts, mosses) (de Lange et al. 2008). Currently botanists accept one endemic species of […]

1. Lepidium oleraceum – Cook’s Scurvy Grass is of course not a grass but a large shrubby cress with a flavour not unlike watercress.

Remarkable and unexpected diversity of scurvy grasses discovered on the Chatham Islands

The New Zealand scurvy grasses (Lepidium species) include the famous Cook’s scurvy grass (L. oleraceum), a species which has gained almost legendary status as the plant that saved Captain Cook and his crew from the depredations of scurvy. Whilst modern research has shown that this is gross exaggeration it cannot be doubted that this plant and its allies were important green foods for not only scurvy ridden sailors but iwi (who in New Zealand knew the plants collectively as ‘nau’).

Wandering albatross chick on Hakepa, Pitt Island

Another wandering albatross chick raised on Pitt Island

DOC ranger Kenny Dix took the opportunity to band the wandering albatross chick whilst he was visiting Pitt Island recently. This was the sixth Antipodean wandering albatoss chick to be raised on Pitt Island and all going well, this special little one will set out to sea in early 2013. […]

Ferdinand von Mueller: author of the first Chatham Island Flora published by the Victoria State Government of Australia in 1864.

New Checklist of the Chatham Islands Plants Published

As progress toward the preparation of the first flora of the Chatham Islands since 1864 Department of Conservation and Landcare Research scientists have published a new checklist of the plants of the Chatham Islands group (de Lange et al. 2011). The checklist not only provides the first full vouchered listing […]

Chatham Island toetoe

Study reveals low levels of genetic diversity in Chatham Islands toetoe

A study just published in Pacific Conservation Biology reveals that the Chatham Island toetoe (Austroderiaturbaria) populations have very little significant genetic variation (Houliston et al. 2012). The discovery comes as somewhat of a worrying surprise to plant conservationists. Previously, without the ability to check levels of genetic variation the Department […]

In Search of Cox’s Matipo

Unique to the Chathams, Cox’s matipo (Myrsine coxii) is a tough little plant well designed to withstand the weather with small leathery leaves and usually keeping under 2m tall. Surprisingly it flowers in winter, but not that you’d notice. You might however see the odd purple berry. It doesn’t appear […]