Past Events

Talk / Seminar on 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.

Field Trip on Friday 21st of February 2020, 05:00 PM (4 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

Talk / Seminar on Wednesday 19th of February 2020, 05:20 PM (4 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.

Talk / Seminar on Wednesday 13th of November 2019, 05:20 PM (4 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.

Field Trip on Saturday 2nd of November 2019, 08:30 AM (4 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.

Field Trip on Saturday 19th of October 2019, 09:00 AM (4 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.

Talk / Seminar on Wednesday 9th of October 2019, 05:20 PM (4 years ago)

Contact: Gretchen Brownstein | | 0210658497

The Botanical Art and Illustration Courses at Olveston began in January 2017. An Advanced Botanical Art and Illustration Course was later held beginning June 2018 and out of that course came the first Botanical Art and Illustration Exhibition at Olveston, which was held in December 2018. The classes have been hugely popular. The exhibition of original botanical artwork was of very high quality and created great public interest.

The courses are taught by Wayne Everson, who is an award winning teacher and practising artist. He holds a Master of Fine Art degree from RMIT University, Melbourne, and has taught art at tertiary level for many years in New Zealand and overseas. Wayne Everson will give the talk, which will centre on the success of the classes at Olveston and their botanical focus. 1c.jpg

Field Trip on Saturday 21st of September 2019, 09:00 AM (4 years ago)

Contact: Robyn Bridges | 021 235 8997

Akatore is a remnant of diverse coastal shrubland at the mouth of Akatore Creek, 45 minutes south of Dunedin. Some special features of this site include the diversity of shrub species and threatened species such as Coprosma obconica, Olearia fragrantissima, Melicytus flexuosus and Carex littorosa with the possibility of our discovering other threatened species. We may also visit the adjacent coast where the threatened cress Lepidium tenuicaule is present as well as Myosotis pygmaea. It is recommended to bring extra foot wear to change into in case they get wet!

Talk / Seminar on Wednesday 18th of September 2019, 06:00 PM (4 years ago)

Contact: Gretchen Brownstein | | 0210658497

Speaker: Hamish Campbell (Emeritus Scientist, GNS Science). Location: Castle 1, University of Otago (drinks and nibbles starting from 5:15 in the concourse).

This is an illustrated talk exploring the geological evidence for the emergence of land and onset of terrestrial conditions in New Caledonia (northern Zealandia) in the Oligocene, and in the Chatham Islands (eastern Zealandia) in the Pliocene. These age interpretations have significant implications for our understanding of the antiquity and biodiversity of the floras of both New Caledonia and the Chatham Islands.  

Field Trip on Saturday 31st of August 2019, 09:00 AM (4 years ago)

Contact: Sarah Kilduff |

We will go and see what we can find. Contact Sarah Kilduff (

Talk / Seminar on Wednesday 28th of August 2019, 05:20 PM (4 years ago)

Contact: Gretchen Brownstein | | 0210658497

Unfortunately, Toni is not longer able to speak this Wednesday, so David will be giving us a talk instead.

Dr David Orlovich, Department of Botany, University of Otago

Through many wonderful collaborations, we have been using new genomics tools to explore the past, present and future of our native forests and the fungi that support them. We used genotyping by sequencing to study the population genetics of silver beech. I will give an update on our research that gives tantalising clues to how silver beech spread in the South Island following the last ice age. However, beech trees can’t grow on their own, and we are also discovering many new species of ectomycorrhizal fungi that help beech trees to grow. The distribution of these fungi is still poorly understood, and again, new genomics tools will come to the rescue. We aim to understand if barriers to beech tree dispersal are also barriers to the spread of fungi. Watch this space! Finally, whole genome sequencing is allowing us to understand the genetic basis for the incredible diversity of mushrooms and truffles in our forests, and I will give an update on our research that seeks to understand the mechanisms that give rise to so many truffles in the NZ bush.

Talk / Seminar on Wednesday 10th of July 2019, 05:20 PM (4 years ago)

Contact: Lydia Turley

Speaker: Laura Van Galen. The symbiotic relationship that exists between beech trees and ectomycorrhizal fungi has important implications for beech forest regeneration and the stability of forest boundaries. I am doing a PhD to investigate this relationship and provide practical information to assist forest restoration projects. I am conducting a large-scale survey of ectomycorrhizal fungi in beech forests across the South Island of New Zealand, to better understand the influence of host species, soil properties, patch size and condition, and other environmental factors on ectomycorrhizal diversity and community assembly. I am also establishing a plot experiment in ex-pasture where beech seeds will be sown under varying conditions, to determine the relative importance of fungi compared to other factors (such as soil nutrient levels, grass competition, the availability of shelter and herbivory) for restoration project success.

Please note the new date.

Field Trip on Saturday 6th of July 2019, 09:00 AM (4 years ago)

Contact: John Steel | | 021 2133 170

A chance to check out some of the smaller denizens of our local bush and learn the differences between mosses, liverworts and hornworts. Leave from the Department of Botany car park at 9.00 a.m. Contact John Steel

Talk / Seminar on Wednesday 12th of June 2019, 05:20 PM (4 years ago)

Contact: Allison Knight

We are privileged to have Cathy Rufaut and Professor David Craw (winner of the 2018 Otago University Distinguished Research Medal) to talk to us about their ongoing geo-ecology project at the Wangaloa Coal Mine Reserve and how they have monitored re-vegetation on this challenging site.

Field Trip on Saturday 8th of June 2019, 09:00 AM (4 years ago)

Contact: John Barkla | | 027 326 7917

Okia Reserve is a large coastal reserve on the Otago Peninsula that is jointly owned by the DCC and Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust. It comprises an old dune system that is rapidly changing from its dominant bracken cover to woody coastal species. The hollows between the dunes hold a variety of wetlands that include turf, bogs and ponds. The Otago Regional Council regard the dune hollow vegetation to be the best example in the Otago Coast Ecological Region. Along with the Pyramids - a significant geological feature, and Victory Beach - the longest beach on the Peninsula, there's plenty to keep us occupied. We'll do a walk that encompasses all these features. Meet at Botany Department carpark at 9am or the Okia Reserve carpark at the end of Dick Road at 9.30 am. Contact John Barkla 03 476 3686 or