Terrestrial

We’re away, home again in September

We’re away, home again in September

Gerald McCormack, Natural Heritage Trust
First published (14 April 2021), short version CI News (14 April 2021)

 

Plover in breeding plumage ready for April departure.

The Pacific Golden Plover, or Tōrea, is our most common Alaskan migrant. It is conspicuous on larger grassy areas during the summer and most are now in their dramatic breeding plumage and ready to depart. Continue reading →

Posted by Gerald in Animals, Ecology, Terrestrial, 0 comments
Cycads and their Golden Age

Cycads and their Golden Age

Joseph Brider, Natural Heritage Trust.
First published online (19 Feb 2021).

Japanese Sage-palm Cycad (Cycas revoluta) showing a mature plant with male (top) and female (bottom) reproductive organs in the right-hand inserts. The composite image was prepared by Gerald McCormack

Japanese Sago-palm with male reproductive structure in top insert and female structures in bottom insert. Photo: CINHT

What do Japanese Sago-palms, Queen Sago-palms and Cardboard Palms all have in common? Well… they are NOT palms, they are all Cycads! The ‘palm’ reference comes from the shape of their leaves and cylindrical trunks but these plants are not even closely related to palms!

These recently introduced plants to the Cook Islands represent a very, very old lineage of plants that predate the dinosaurs.  These are very slow-growing, long lived plants with some specimens in the wild being over 1000 years old . A particular specimen of Cycad in Kew Gardens in the UK arrived at their botanical garden in 1775, making it 246 years old in 2021. Consequently, it also holds the record for being the oldest potted plant in the world .

Let’s dive in and learn about the charismatic, but often misunderstood plants.

Continue reading →

Posted by Joseph in Ecology, Plants, Terrestrial, 0 comments
Tree-ferns – Our Living Fossils

Tree-ferns – Our Living Fossils

Joseph Brider, Natural Heritage Trust.
First published online (16 Feb 2021).

Tree-fern

Budding Tree-fern (Cyathea decurrens). Photo: CINHT

Scattered throughout the Rarotonga inland forest are our Tree-ferns, known locally as Panga. These plants are not trees, they are ferns which have evolved a trunk-like stem to lift their leaves up off the forest floor in order to seek life-sustaining sunlight.
Continue reading →

Posted by Joseph in Ecology, Plants, Terrestrial, 0 comments
Golden Plover Migration to Alaska

Golden Plover Migration to Alaska

Gerald McCormack, Natural Heritage Trust

Plumage

During February and March the Pacific Golden-Plovers (Tōrea) transition from their dull non-breeding plumage into contrasting breeding plumage.

Holidaymakers gather in the airport departure lounge to leave for home, and as the boarding time approaches they hear entertainer Jake Numanga announce somewhat solemnly “Well, it’s time to go”. During February and March, Golden Plovers or Tōrea are also gathering around the airport grasslands to leave for home in Alaska. I wonder if they have a Jake bird announcing “Well, it’s time to go”?
Continue reading →

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Raemaru Biodiversity Expedition

Raemaru Biodiversity Expedition

Gerald McCormack, Natural Heritage Trust, 06 Jan. 2021

Joseph on cliff to the top.

The invertebrate biodiversity expedition on Raemaru encountered three unique Rarotonga insects, one undescribed, and of the seven locally-unrecorded species, only one was able to be identified.

In December, Maja Poeschko and Kirby Morejohn joined the author and Joseph Brider of the Trust on an expedition to the top of Raemaru. The plan was to survey insects and spiders with a primary goal of finding and photographing the small psyllid insect that was found locally for the first time on a single shrub in 2017.

Continue reading →

Posted by Gerald in Animals, Terrestrial, 0 comments