Introduced Species

Keanui’s Biodiversity Bonanza

Keanui’s Biodiversity Bonanza

Gerald McCormack, Natural Heritage Trust

First published Cook Islands News (5th June 2021), here (6th June 2021)

Entomologist at work!

Residents often talk about Cook Islands biodiversity, but few have discovered as many unrecorded species as 6-year-old Keanui Selam.  His recent insect-catching expeditions led to the discovery of eight unrecorded species of Heteroptera, a group of insects known as true bugs, or typical bugs.

True bugs all have a proboscis of long tubular mouthparts, which some use to suck the sap of plants; while others use it to spear and suck the juices out of caterpillars and other insects. The first group are farmers’ foes, while the latter are farmers’ friends. Continue reading →

Posted by Gerald in Animals, 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