Flowers in the fridge: Floral Biology in New Zealand Alpine and Subantarctic Zones

Dr Janice Lord, Department of Botany/Genetics Otago, University of Otago (RSNZ Leonard Cockayne Fund Recipient).

Friday 28th August 6 pm Presbyterian Community Centre, Tenby St. $5 admission.

The flowers of high latitude and high altitude plants are often less coloured and smaller compared with relatives from warmer climates, a phenomenon commonly thought to relate to a reduced reliance on biotic pollination. The NZ alpine flora is particularly famous for its abundance of small, pale flowered species. However, as noted by Leonard Cockayne, bright flower colours are, surprisingly, more common among sub-antarctic plants compared with their mainland relatives. Recent work in the floral biology of both NZ alpine and sub-antarctic plants indicate that biotic pollination and co-evolution with insects may be more important than previously thought, highlighting the role that careful ecological botany can still play in discovering the story of NZ plants.

Dr Janice Lord is a senior lecturer in the University of Otago, Botany Department. Her broad area of research is in plant evolutionary ecology, in particular the evolution of plant reproductive strategies, and how plant pollination and fruit dispersal systems has been influenced by the unique set of animals in New Zealand. Current areas of research activity include pollination syndromes and breeding systems in alpine and subantarctic plants and the role of flower colour in pollinator attraction; the impact of climate change on alpine plants and their pollinators; the loss of specialised breeding systems and self-incompatibility in introduced plants that have naturalised in New Zealand; and biochemical variation and distribution of alpine Thamnolia lichens.

Her interests in plants go beyond plant science and include the history of plant symbolism, the use and identification of plants in textiles by pacific cultures, and the interface between botanical science and Mātauranga Māori. She is also interested in applied issue in plant ecology and was responsible for the design of the “greenroof” on top of the University of Otago, Psychology Department’s Greenstar rated William James Building.

For examples of publications and research-related videos see her webpage