Grass Peas near the Sign of the Kiwi, Canterbury, New Zealand

On 19 October, iNaturalist user @joepb discovered a population of grass peas (Lathyrus sphaericus) in flower in the Coronation Reserve near the Sign of the Kiwi on the Banks Peninsula in Canterbury, New Zealand. His observation represented the first sighting of the species in New Zealand on iNaturalist, and a bit of digging at GBIF revealed that it was only the second New Zealand sighting at all since 1990, when a herbarium specimen was retrieved from very nearly the same location. Oblivious to all this, I happened across a third specimen on 2 November near where the other observations were recorded.

It was pretty cool to rediscover a species that had persisted unnoticed for nearly 30 years. We have no idea how extensive its distribution is since L. sphaericus is native to Europe and the recorded observations were all made in close proximity to each other, so on 4 November, I set out after work to see if I could find some more specimens in the Coronation Reserve. Starting from the saddle between Coronation Hill and the hill immediately south of it, I set off on the loop track around the bottom of Coronation Hill going anticlockwise. I finally found some specimens at the edge of the little wood behind the Sign of the Kiwi cafe. I found one or two more near the one I found on 2 November, next to the track adjacent to the cafe. I then found quite a few more near Joe's 19 October observation, then they petered out. I found one more small population below the walking track a little further on.

My 4 November trip was fruitful, and I'll try and summarise my perception of its distribution. L. sphaericus is not nearly as common as the little purple vetch (Vicia sativa, I think) that is found all over the place on the Port Hills, but where it is found, it is fairly abundant within a few square metres of space. In total, I probably saw in the order of 50 plants. I certainly didn't photograph every plant, but I captured representatives of all populations that I found. The purple vetch appears to be happy to grow nearly anywhere, including up through tall grass, but L. sphaericus generally appears to prefer sites with relatively short surrounding cover such as found along the edge of the loop track, although it is equipped with tendrils and could climb up grass. Most plants were probably not more than 20 cm tall and only had one flower. I found nearly all of them on the uphill side of the loop track not more than a few metres from the track. I did make a couple of transects up to 10 m uphill from the loop track, and a quick reconnaissance to the top of Coronation Hill, but I didn't find any plants there.

I don't know enough about how legume seeds are dispersed. I want to explore the hill to the south of Coronation Hill next, but my gut feeling is that there probably won't be any specimens over there given the current known distribution spans only the northern half of the perimeter of Coronation Hill south of the Summit Road. Given the right conditions, they might be more likely to exist on the northern side of Summit Road.

Publicado por crellow crellow, 04 de noviembre de 2019

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crellow

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Noviembre 2, 2019 11:53 AM NZDT

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crellow

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Noviembre 4, 2019 05:38 PM NZDT

Descripción

@joepb I went for a walk this evening and found a few more. :)

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crellow

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Noviembre 4, 2019 05:40 PM +13

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crellow

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Noviembre 4, 2019 05:46 PM +13

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crellow

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Noviembre 4, 2019 05:52 PM +13

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crellow

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Noviembre 4, 2019 05:53 PM +13

Comentarios

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Very nice post Crellow. Thanks for the effort.

Publicado por joepb hace 7 meses (Marca)
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Publicado por joepb hace 7 meses (Marca)
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Nice work! One thing puzzles me - I plugged in the original coordinates from that link, and Google maps puts the spot in Hoon Hay valley, 3.7km from the site of your adventures. Do your technological thingies place it closer? @dave_holland We should come up here on Sunday and see whether we can find any plants outside of the current known distribution!

Publicado por reinderw hace 7 meses (Marca)
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Good plan!

Publicado por dave_holland hace 7 meses (Marca)
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Gee I'd love to get in on that mission. MIght be tricky for me time-wise but what time do you reckon you'd be going up there?

Publicado por joepb hace 7 meses (Marca)
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Be great fun to have you along - considering we haunt the same places, we really should have met by now! I should have thought to ask you and @crellow whether you wanted to come first. What time would be best for you? I can work around whenever, and I suspect Dave can as well

Publicado por reinderw hace 7 meses (Marca)
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@reinderw Not sure what set of coordinates you used, but the GBIF record for the 1990 observation has it right at the Sign of the Kiwi. I'm guessing based on the metadata that the true location is somewhere within a couple of hundred metres. So, essentially the same place that we found our plants.

I'd also love to come along, but I'm not sure what my weekend plans are just yet. Sunday afternoon might be a goer for me.

Publicado por crellow hace 7 meses (Marca)
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Yeah Sunday avo would work well if I can get a grandparent to babysit for a couple of hours (which I probably can.) If that works for everyone as a time ...

Publicado por joepb hace 7 meses (Marca)
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Yup! I used the GBIF record, and copied and pasted the coordinates I redid it half a dozen times yesterday just to make sure, and just tried again. Still places me on the western side of Hoon Hay valley! I was getting excited, because I was thinking the hills between there and your finds would be covered with the plant!

Roughly what time are you guys thinking? @dave_holland We should also check and see whether some of those weird cotoneasters are flowering in Victoria Park

Publicado por reinderw hace 7 meses (Marca)
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Maybe 1? But I could move that potentially.

Publicado por joepb hace 7 meses (Marca)
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I could do 1:30 pm

Publicado por crellow hace 7 meses (Marca)
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I like 1:30

Publicado por reinderw hace 7 meses (Marca)
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See ya 1.30.

Publicado por joepb hace 7 meses (Marca)
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Perfect! See you all there, unless the weather's really crazy

Publicado por reinderw hace 7 meses (Marca)
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Cool. 1:30 pm at SotK.

Publicado por crellow hace 7 meses (Marca)
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Well heck, the weather’s packed it in already. You guys do what you want, but I’m going to have to opt out. I won’t have another opportunity to check comments this morning.

Publicado por crellow hace 7 meses (Marca)
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I'm still in @reinderw. Short of steady rain I'll be there.

Publicado por joepb hace 7 meses (Marca)
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Cool - same for us. Isn't meant to start raining till 4 anyway!

Publicado por reinderw hace 7 meses (Marca)

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