What’s cooking with kānuka?

Wednesday 9th of March 2022, 05:20 PM (1 month from now)

Contact: Gretchen Brownstein

Speaker: Matt McGlone, Manaaki Whenua-Landcare Research.

As a successional tree species after fire or other disturbance, kānuka plays a key ecological role in the lowland and montane landscapes of New Zealand. It is also highly variable, with some populations contributing to lowland forest canopies 25 m or more in height and others consisting of scattered, low-growing, multi-stemmed shrubs on gravelly soils in frosty basins. Until recently, two species and several varieties were formally recognized - along with a swag of tag names. In 2014, a comprehensive revision of the kānuka group attempted to rationalize the situation and expanded the number of species to 10. The revision has had a mixed reception with many of the species proving difficult to confidently identify whether in the field or herbarium. In this talk I will present the results of a recently published genetic study of nearly 900 kānuka specimens spanning the entire geographic range of the complex and all the current species. I will discuss the implications for kānuka taxonomy but also for how we decide what is and what is not a ‘species’.