Past Events

Field trip to Tavora Reserve, North Otago

Saturday 11th of July 2020, 09:00 AM (3 years ago)

Contact: John Barkla | | 027 326 7917

Tavora is a coastal reserve near Palmerston managed by the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust. Over more than 20 years the Trust has transformed the previously marram covered dunes into a showcase of pingao with many associated threatened species including shore spurge, Cooks scurvy grass and sand tussock. This is augmented with advanced riparian planting alongside the stream leading to the dunes. The reserve also has natural populations of the uncommon Aciphylla subflabellata, Lepidium tenuicaule, and Tupeia antarctica mistletoe hemi-parasitic on ribbonwood trees. We'll do an easy walking circuit of the reserve that takes in all the highlights. Meet at Botany Department carpark at 9am.

Silken harp chords and the green choir

Wednesday 8th of July 2020, 05:20 PM (3 years ago)

Contact: Lydia Turley

Speaker: James Crofts-Bennett. The mutualistic relationship between the plant kingdom and the arachnid order Araneae is remarkable both in nature and how often it is over looked. There is extensive literary coverage on spider abundance and diversity in relation to vegetation texture diversity. So extensive is the research that beyond mere ecological significance, the relationship between spiders and plants has been adapted into agricultural practices! This talk will explore the theory, supporting evidence, then finally practical applications of exploiting this relationship. Research sites range from the William James building green roof to Orokonui ecosanctuary, grassy meadows to glorious podocarp forest and furtive fern villages! Descriptions of tiny tarsal claws guaranteed to make your skin crawl and close encounters with Aciphylla sure to incite sympathetic cringing! Come one, come all and behold the union of silken harp chords and the green choir!

Working morning at Orokonui Ecosanctuary

Saturday 20th of June 2020, 09:00 AM (3 years ago)

Contact: Gretchen Brownstein | | 0210658497

Due to COVID-19 this trip has been cancelled.

We will spend the morning leading a hand at the ecosanctuary, helping with a bit of weeding and seeing if we can add to their plant species list. In addition, there will be a chance to see the Otago Rare Plants garden (which many of our members have contributed to) and perhaps spy a takahe or tuatara. Meet at Botany Department carpark at 9am.

Sexy Lichens

Wednesday 10th of June 2020, 05:20 PM (3 years ago)

Contact: Allison Knight

Speaker: Dr Allison Knight, Research Associate, Department of Botany.

Due to COVID-19 this event will be held via zoom. More details, including the meeting link, will be emailed to members on the 5th June.

The lichen symbiosis is extraordinary, intertwining organisims from two or even 3 distantly related kingdoms. Lichenised fungi are extremophiles, capable of living in environments well beyond the range of vascular plants. Some can even survive days or years exposed to the vacuum, radiation and temperature extremes of outer space! Intriguingly, lichens are very sensitive indicators of air pollution and can also be useful indicators of climate change. On the lighter side, the Sexy Pavement Lichen grows on the asphalt outside the Botany Department, and covers footpaths and roads all over New Zealand. It has been exploited by the unscrupulous, enticed the gullible and recently caused a global media frenzy.

Fungal foray to Racemans Track

Saturday 23rd of May 2020, 08:30 AM (3 years ago)

Contact: David Orlovich |

Due to COVID-19 this trip has been put on hold. Please check back closer to the day for any updates.

We will explore local fungi with a morning foray along Racemans Track. The track passes through areas of kānuka, which hosts ectomycorrhizal fungi, so it should be an interesting and valuable site to explore. Wear all-weather clothing, walking boots and bring cameras and morning tea. We will collect in the morning, and then those interested can return to the Department of Botany at lunch time to prepare the samples for drying and lodging in the herbarium. Bring lunch if you want to stay to process specimens in Botany. Meet at the Department of Botany car park at 8:30 am or at the Silverstream car park on Silverstream Valley Road at 8:45 am. Return at 12 noon.

BSO Annual General Meeting and Photographic Competition

Wednesday 13th of May 2020, 05:20 PM (3 years ago)

Contact: Gretchen Brownstein | | 0210658497

Due to COVID-19 this event will be held via zoom. More details, including the meeting link, will be emailed to members on the 8th May.

The photographic competition is a popular and eagerly anticipated event for anyone interested in botanical photography. Enter your best photos and learn what makes a good photograph and how to improve your photographic skills from our panel of expert judges. Your photographs may be chosen for the BSO Calendar so this is your opportunity to have one month of fame. Start organising your entries now and don’t wait until the last minute.

A search for the co-evolutionary partner(s) of New Zealand’s sequestrate fungi

Wednesday 8th of April 2020, 05:20 PM (3 years ago)

Contact: Gretchen Brownstein | | 0210658497

Due to COVID-19 this talk has been cancelled. We hope to hold it at a later date.

Speaker: Dr Toni Atkinson.

New Zealand has long been known as a “land of birds”. The idea that the array of sequestrate fungi found here, many of which are colourful, may have arisen through coevolution with birds was first mooted in mycology around 20 years ago. It seemed a natural progression from the widely accepted hypothesis that New Zealand’s diverse divaricating plants evolved due to selective pressure from the now extinct moa species. The suggestion appears to have been taken up by mycologists, and is becoming part of the story of science in this land. Last year, an international team using high-throughput sequencing techniques to analyse the DNA in moa coprolites, revealed the first real evidence that moa may have eaten fungi.

But what happens if we take a fresh look at the whole question? Are moa the most likely coevolutionary partners of our sequestrate fungi, out of all the vertebrate and invertebrate inhabitants of prehistoric New Zealand? In this recently humanised but greatly altered land, it is challenging to hold in mind the relationships that might have played out over evolutionary time. What might we have missed?

Quoin Point

Saturday 4th of April 2020, 08:30 AM (3 years ago)

Contact: Robyn Bridges | 021 235 8997

Due to COVID-19 this trip has been cancelled. We hope to run it at a later date.

This trip offers another opportunity (a previous field trip has been to the mouth of the Akatore River) to look at the distinctive plant communities defined as coastal turfs. These salt tolerant (halophytic) plants are made up of low growing (generally less than 50mm in height), herbs, sedges and grasses, and are well adapted to living in the exposed marine shoreline locations, like this one on the southern Otago coast.

Field trip to Poolburn

Saturday 28th of March 2020, 08:00 AM (3 years ago)

Contact: David Lyttle | | (03) 454 5470

Due to COVID-19 this trip has been cancelled. We hope to run it at a later date.

We are planning to visit the Poolburn Reservoir in the upper Ida Valley. The reservoir was formed by damming the Poolburn during the Depression and gained some recent fame as a “Lord of the Rings” location. We will drive to Oturehua then to Moa Creek, where we will pick up the road to the Reservoir. The Reservoir is situated in a montane basin surrounded by tussock-covered schist ridges. The elevation is approximately 840 metres so should offer an interesting ranges of vegetation types. We will explore the lake-shore environment and adjacent wetlands with excursions on to the ridges and schist outcrops. BSO has not visited this location before so it is possible we may find something unexpected and interesting. If you are interested in coming please contact David Lyttle.

New Caledonia: a Botanist’s Paradise

Wednesday 11th of March 2020, 05:20 PM (3 years ago)

Contact: Gretchen Brownstein | | 0210658497

Speaker: Peter Johnson, Manaaki Whenua-Landcare Research.

“A Botanist’s Paradise”: so-claimed in an interpretation panel at the Noumea Aquarium. Indeed: a challenging Paradise for a young NZ botanist visiting New Caledonia 40 years ago, accompanying a group of NZ entomologists. My role was to collect plants of interest to the insect people, and get identification help from the resident (French) botanists. This had the additional challenge of understanding, for example, that ‘Not-a-far-goose’ was Nothofagus (5 spp. there). New Caledonia has a flora of some 3000 taxa, compared with c. 2400 in NZ, being mostly woody spp. of rainforest, dry forest, maquis (ultramafic shrubland), and savannah (mostly niaouli, a Melaleuca).

In 1978 I had a camera for black-and-white film, and another for a strict ration of 35mm colour slides. Revisiting New Caledonia in 2019 with a digital camera allowed for many more snapshots, even if winter meant a limited number of plants in flower. But more than enough for a picture show: some of the 13 spp. of Araucaria, one of the 95 Pittosporums, the only other (non-NZ) Xeronema, bracken fern that looks like bracken, filmy ferns that are not quite familiar … and so on. Landscapes of misty montagnes, hillsides affected by mining, machetes, and the matchbox, localities with names like Riviere Bleue, Mont Koghi, and Dumbea. Plus road-signs, graffiti, markets, and cuisine … all in French. Join me for a travelogue. Warning: we’ll be driving on the wrong side of the road.

Weekend Field Trip to Invercargill

Friday 21st of February 2020, 05:00 PM (3 years ago)

Contact: David Lyttle | | (03) 454 5470

We are planning to visit Invercargill and explore sites of botanical interest there. These weekend trips have proved very popular in the past, especially for out of town members who do not get the opportunity to participate in local field trips. There is a lot of scope as there are many diverse natural areas close to Invercargill. We are planning to base ourselves at one of the local camping grounds. The preferred option at this stage is the Beach Road Holiday Park west of Invercargill, close to Oreti Beach. If you are interested in coming, contact David Lyttle ( ph (03) 454 5470.

We are planning to visit the following sites:

Friday 21st afternoon – Sandy point (for those that travel down early)

Saturday 22nd morning – Tiwai Peninsula

Saturday 22nd afternoon – Bluff Hill

Sunday 23rd morning – Otatara (including Otatara Scenic Reserve, Bowman’s Bush and Rance’s covenant

Eco-evolutionary stories about plant diversification in New Zealand

Wednesday 19th of February 2020, 05:20 PM (3 years ago)

Contact: Gretchen Brownstein | | 0210658497

Speaker: Bill Lee, Manaaki Whenua-Landcare Research.

Plant radiations are a feature of the New Zealand flora and contribute endemic elements to many ecosystems. In this talk I explore what we are learning about the chronology, trait development, ecology and evolution of the modern flora by looking at woody and herbaceous lineages through time. This perspective focuses on distinct lineages and integrates time-calibrated phylogenies with the ecology and distribution of modern species. Immigration, abiotic and biotic selection and geography have all played a role in facilitating species-rich groups, especially after major extinction events and the appearance of new biomes. I will mainly use genera that have come out of the forest into open areas above and below treeline.

Assessing the ecological consequences of extinction: are flightless birds important seed dispersers in New Zealand?

Wednesday 13th of November 2019, 05:20 PM (3 years ago)

Contact: Gretchen Brownstein | | 0210658497

Speaker: Jo Carpenter, Postdoctoral Researcher, Manaaki Whenua-Landcare Research

Understanding the mutualistic services that species provide is essential when assessing the consequences of their local or global extinction. New Zealand historically harboured ~27 species of flightless land birds, of which 67% are now extinct, and the mutualist services these taxa provided are still unclear. Five large-seeded endemic tree species (Elaeocarpus dentatus, E. hookerianus, Prumnopitys ferruginea, P. taxifolia, Vitex lucens) appear partially adapted for seed dispersal by flightless birds, leading to speculation that they may once have been dispersed by moa. However, coprolite (fossilised faeces) evidence demonstrates that moa actually functioned largely as seed predators. So who does disperse these strange seeds? My PhD research shows that a flightless rail, the weka (Gallirallus australis) may be a significant disperser for some of these plants. Weka moved P. ferruginea and E. dentatus seeds similar dispersal distances to kereru (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae), yet the potential contribution of weka to forest regeneration is frequently overlooked by conservationists. Overall, my research demonstrates the importance of critically examining assumptions about which species conduct important ecosystem functions. More broadly, the Pacific has lost >450 rail species in the last 3000 years, which may represent one of the most widespread yet least appreciated losses of dispersal function ever recorded.

Andersons Lagoon

Saturday 2nd of November 2019, 08:30 AM (3 years ago)

Contact: John Steel | | 021 2133 170

Andersons Lagoon is a sizeable wetland comprising a shallow lagoon resulting from the formation of a sand dune barrier limiting the egress of the waters of Stony Creek to the sea. The lagoon is contained in a steep-sided valley resulting in some narrow bands of vegetation types along the shore. The track to the lagoon passes through a QEII covenant which was planted with native trees some years ago. The dune system has led to an inland sand spit with primarily exotic species extending from the dunes towards the lagoon, where native wetland plants are more common. The embouchure at the northern end of the dunes is easily crossed and a stairway leads to the top of a cliff from where a pathway leads to the mouth of the Shag River. A seldom visited area and well worth the trip. Leave the Botany Department car park at 8.30 a.m.

Weekend trip to the Catlins.

Saturday 19th of October 2019, 09:00 AM (3 years ago)

Contact: John Barkla | | 027 326 7917

On this trip we will visit several stunning coastal sites in the northern Catlins including Jacks Bay and blowhole, Pounawea Scenic Reserve, Cannibal Bay and Nugget Point. We’ll encounter coastal rata forest, dune slacks with rare species, shrublands and herbfields. We will depart on Saturday morning and spend Saturday night at the Pounawea Motor Camp 2.5 km from Owaka. This tranquil camp has cabins and camping sites surrounded by native forest on the edge of an estuary. You are responsible for your own accommodation arrangements and catering. Please let John Barkla know if you are intending to come by Monday 14 October. Travel arrangements will be advised.