Conservation of rare and threatened plants

Te Papa researcher: Carlos Lehnebach

Understanding interactions between threatened plants and their pollinators and symbiotic partners is fundamental to secure their long-term survival either in their natural habitat or ex-situ collections. My research aims at documenting the pollination biology of threatened plants and trees, identify orchid mycorrhizal partners and implement methods to propagate orchids from seed for conservation purposes.

Current projects focus on one of New Zealand’s rarest tree, the Bartlett’s rata (Metrosideros bartlettii) with only 13 individuals left in the wild, and the helmet swamp orchid (Corybas carsei) with a few plants at a single site in New Zealand.

Pollination of Bartlett’s Rata (Metrosideros bartlettii). Photo by Rewi Elliot, Otari Wilton’s Bush

Orchid seedling (Drymoanthus adversus) on branch. Photo by Karin van der Walt, Otari Wilton’s Bush

Main collaborators: Colleagues from Otari Native Botanic Gardens (Wellington), Victoria University of Wellington, Massey University, University of Auckland, Department of Conservation.

Funding: Department of Conservation, The Australian Orchid Foundation.

Representative publications:

Nadarajan J, van der Walt K, Lehnebach CA, Saeiahagh H, Pathirana R. 2020. Integrated ex situ conservation strategies for endangered New Zealand Myrtaceae species. New Zealand Journal of Botany.

Frericks J, Munkacsi A, Ritchie P, Luo YB, Lehnebach CA. 2018. Phylogenetic affinities and in vitro seed germination of the threatened New Zealand orchid Spiranthes novae-zelandiae. New Zealand Journal of Botany 56: 10-24.