February 18, 2024

The scientific name for miro: transfer it to Pectinopitys or keep it in Prumnopitys?

Some have advocated for changing the scientific name of miro, one of the podocarp conifers endemic to New Zealand from Prumnopitys ferruginea to Pectinopitys ferruginea. There are counterarguments to this proposal. The below is an extract from Perrie (2022) Are recently proposed genus changes for several New Zealand trees consistent with minimising change within a scientifically-based taxonomy? New Zealand Botanical Society Newsletter 149: 11-18.


Page (2019) proposed the transfer of six species, including New Zealand’s miro, Prumnopitys ferruginea (Fig. 2), from Prumnopitys to a genus he newly described, Pectinopitys. He retained three species within Prumnopitys, including New Zealand’s mātai, Prumnopitys taxifolia. He also maintained as a distinct genus the Malesian-Australian monotypic Sundacarpus that he had earlier described.

Page (2019) referenced earlier phylogenetic studies of DNA sequences, the more recent being Biffin et al. (2012), Knopf et al. (2012), and Little et al. (2013). There seems to be some conflict among the studied DNA loci, and relatively little data were studied given the deep divergences involved. Nevertheless, there seems to be overall agreement in recognising three lineages, with Sundacarpus sister to Prumnopitys s.s., and their clade sister to Pectinopitys. Having found the sole species of Sundacarpus to be nested within Prumnopitys s.l., the simplest course of action would be to return the former to the latter, as done explicitly by Knopf et al. (2012) and Little et al. (2013), and implicitly by Biffin et al. (2012). The alternative solution proffered by Page is perverse from the perspective of minimising taxonomic change (i.e., six additional name changes globally).

Page’s reasoning seems to have two parts. Firstly, Sundacarpus looks really different, and should therefore be a different genus, and that similar reasoning can be applied to Pectinopitys and Prumnopitys s.s. While these differences can be scientifically catalogued, the judgement as to how much difference is fit for recognition as a genus (or one of the other arbitrary categories of species groupings) is subjective, and not scientific. Such reasoning is a recipe for never-ending taxonomic change as taxonomists argue unscientifically about what a genus should be, and it has long been rejected by most modern taxonomists.

The second part is that the divergences within Prumnopitys s.l. are temporally deep and equivalent to those between genera elsewhere in the Podocarpaceae. But this is a parallel recipe for subjective-caused instability. Which genera within the Podocarpaceae should be the benchmarks? Further taxonomic name changes would inevitably be required as comparisons are variously made across conifers, gymnosperms, seed plants, land plants, and life. It is worth quoting Entwisle & Weston (2005, p.2) at length on this point: “The only criterion of absolute rank that we think is objective and logically defensible is Hennig’s (1966) idea of tying rank to geological age. However we believe this criterion is hopelessly impractical, for several reasons…”. Until this “hopelessly impractical” option is realised across the classification of life, taxonomists should refrain from trying to give equivalency to taxa of the same rank, as it is subjective and only induces instability.

Prumnopitys as broadly defined (i.e., including Pectinopitys and Sundacarpus) is monophyletic, and Prumnopitys ferruginea should be used for miro by those interested in minimising name changes while aiming for a scientific classification.

Posted on February 18, 2024 12:18 AM by leonperrie leonperrie

July 12, 2022

Photo guide for New Zealand's filmy ferns

We've just put a draft photo guide to Aotearoa's filmy ferns onto Te Papa's website.

The 28 pages can be freely downloaded as a pdf from this link.

If you're already comfortable identifying filmy ferns, this still might be a useful resource to share with those who are learning, including on iNaturalist.

Also at that link above are draft photo guides for New Zealand's tree ferns, Blechnaceae, Lycopodiaceae, and Pteridaceae.

Feedback welcome.

I'm thinking I might next work on Dryopteridaceae and Aspleniaceae, but am open to requests.

[Tagging those with the most Hymenophyllaceae observations and identifications in New Zealand during the last year]
@brucedc, @johnb-nz, @h_rogers, @joedillon, @chrise, @hngamoki, @bevc, @lisa_bennett, @benjansss, @naturewatchwidow, @emily_r, @lcolmer, @reingered, @chrismorse, @dave_holland
@barbaraparris, @mark_smale, @david_lyttle, @lloyd_esler, @dhutch, @tramperjames, @john_barkla

Posted on July 12, 2022 09:13 AM by leonperrie leonperrie | 9 comments | Leave a comment

March 07, 2022

Lycopodiaceae name changes

Kia ora,
You might have noticed changes in iNaturalist to the scientific names of many of the species of Lycopodiaceae in New Zealand. (NZPCN has also adopted these changes.)
For what it is worth, I don't agree with these changes as it is against the principle of minimising taxonomic change while having a classification that recognises only monophyletic groups. The broader genera, as previously circumscribed, were monophyletic, so no change was needed, in my opinion. Maintaining the previous circumscriptions seems in the best interests of general users (and therefore best for the field of taxonomy).
However, others don't ascribe to the principle of minimising change, which is unfortunate for general users who are disrupted unnecessarily. I asked the person who made the changes in iNaturalist why they did it. If you'd like to know more, the conversation is here:
Kind regards, Leon

Tagging the major observers and identifiers of Lycopodiaceae in New Zealand, in case you're interested:
@john_barkla, @brucedc, @naturewatchwidow, @rempson, @david_lyttle, @lloyd_esler, @mark_smale, @dave_holland, @johnvandenhoeven, @chrise, @bylsand, @johnb-nz, @peter_sweetapple, @meurkc, @rowan_hindmarsh_walls, @jacqui-nz, @fergus, @melissa_hutchison

Posted on March 07, 2022 07:01 AM by leonperrie leonperrie | 3 comments | Leave a comment

August 16, 2021

Lomatia fraseri

A summary of our recent paper about the naturalisation in New Zealand of the Australian tree Lomatia fraseri is now available on Te Papa's blog:

Posted on August 16, 2021 01:27 AM by leonperrie leonperrie | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 01, 2021

New Zealand ferns identification guide - tree fern draft available

I've got ready a draft of the tree fern section for the identification guide to New Zealand ferns that I'm working on. It is downloadable as a 9 MB pdf from my Google drive at this link:


Constructive feedback welcome 🙂

@johnb-nz, @dhutch, @kaipatiki_naturewatch, @jacqui-nz, @dave_holland

Posted on August 01, 2021 06:43 AM by leonperrie leonperrie | 8 comments | Leave a comment

June 28, 2020

New Zealand Lycopodiaceae guide - a prototype for a guide to ferns?

I’ve put together a guide to Aotearoa’s 12 species of Lycopodiaceae. This complements and is based on our recently published electronic Flora of New Zealand chapter for this family.

The guide is a prototype, and maybe a bit rough around the edges. But I hope it’ll still be useful. We’ve tried to focus on the distinguishing features in an accessible way (i.e., photos, limited jargon). No matter where you live in New Zealand, you’ll have some of these species near you.

The guide is available for free as a 12 MB pdf from my Google Drive.

Feedback is welcome. For instance:
• Would you like a similar guide for New Zealand's ferns?
• Is the jargon at an okay level?
• Is the pdf file useful (e.g., for printing)? Would you prefer a different format (e.g., webpage)?
• Even if this was available free online (for all of the common ferns and lycophytes), would you buy a professionally-produced book with the same content?

Suggestions for changes welcome.

Note – if you wondering "who/what are the Lycopodiaceae?", the guide answers that!

Posted on June 28, 2020 06:55 AM by leonperrie leonperrie | 5 comments | Leave a comment

April 01, 2020

Tips on fern identification

For those on facebook, I'm taking a close look during #lockdown at the New Zealand ferns I have growing at home. Some are the usual self-sown suspects, while others that I have in cultivation are maybe a bit more unusual.

I've started with three similar-looking spleenworts: Asplenium oblongifolium, A. obtusatum, and A. lepidotum. Next up will be Asplenium polyodon, and then I might have a look through what I have from the Pteridaceae, Polypodiaceae, and Blechnaceae (and return to more Asplenium later).

You can find more pictures and my tips for identification at www.facebook.com/nzferns


Posted on April 01, 2020 08:50 AM by leonperrie leonperrie | 3 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 13, 2020

A new species of Cheilolejeunea liverwort

For those interested in small plants, here's a new species of liverwort. Cheilolejeunea rodneyi is named after the Wellington Botanical Society stalwart Rodney Lewington.

Posted on January 13, 2020 07:23 AM by leonperrie leonperrie | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 09, 2020

Australian ferns with relatives in NZ

Here are a few species of Australian ferns that have close relatives in New Zealand. Can you guess the NZ relation?
More examples on the New Zealand Ferns facebook page, along with answers!


Posted on January 09, 2020 07:35 AM by leonperrie leonperrie | 5 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 06, 2020

Ferns and lycophytes shared with Australia

I was fortunate to spend Christmas and New Year in Melbourne. Some 80-90 species of ferns and lycophytes occur naturally in both Australia and New Zealand. Below are a few examples of what we saw near Melbourne.
I have photos of many more such species on the New Zealand Ferns facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/nzferns/

Posted on January 06, 2020 08:51 AM by leonperrie leonperrie | 4 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment