The Chathams Islands group are the eastern-most expression of the New Zealand archipelago. Opinions vary as to the age of the current islands; geological evidence suggests that the current surface expression is anywhere from 2–3 million years old (Holt 2008) but the DNA evidence, based on molecular clock inferences indicates […]
While our knowledge of New Zealand lichens is rapidly growing we are still unclear of what is present over large parts of the New Zealand Botanical Region. One key area of lichen ignorance is the Chatham Islands. The current lichen flora (Galloway 2007) records just 48 species for the islands. Yet despite that, the Chathams are the type locality for three species, and one of these, Caloplaca maculata, is endemic to the islands (see Galloway 2007; Johnson 2008; de Lange 2009).
In 1996 two of us, Peter de Lange & Gillian Crowcroft, visited the islands for their first time during which they collected a few lichens from the southern part of Rekohu (Chatham Island). Since then, but most especially in 2007 and 2008, Peter de Lange (mostly aided by Peter Heenan), has made a special effort to collect lichens to improve our knowledge of their diversity on the island. As a result of these gatherings, Peter de Lange and David Galloway (the author of the New Zealand Lichen flora series (Galloway 1985, 2007)) are working with the other key Chatham Islands lichen collectors Peter Johnson and Allison Knight, and lichenologist Dan Blanchon to prepare a checklist of the lichen flora for that island group (Galloway et al. in prep.). As part of that project they have been systematically working through all known collections from the island group held in New Zealand herbaria. In the process some rather interesting and at times unexpected finds are being made.
A common woodland lichen of eastern Australia that has been recorded only twice from New Zealand in 1934 and 1976, and then only from the far north of the North Island has turned up on the Chatham Islands. The lichen, Heterodea muelleri is a leafy species that in Australia grows in moderately open woodland habitats. In New Zealand, until it was recognised from the Chatham Islands it had only ever been recorded from dune slacks somewhere on the Ninety Mile Beach and from damp sandstone ridges in light scrub near Puheke, Karikari Peninsula.
The Chatham gatherings came from the north-western end of Ocean Bay, Chatham Island and from the top of Hakepa Hill (Walkemup), Pitt Island. At Ocean Bay the lichen grew on sandy peat and clay above schist on the margin of salt and wind blasted vegetation. In this habitat it was associated with the lichens Cladia aggregata and C. retipora, and sedge Lepidosperma australe. On Hakepa Hill specimens were gathered from amongst the dense drifts of Cladonia lichens that grow between the low, windswept fernland that covers most of that trachyte peaks summit.