From: University of Adelaide
Published June 22, 2017 10:51 AM

Australian origin likely for iconic New Zealand tree

Ancestors of the iconic New Zealand Christmas Tree, P?hutukawa, may have originated in Australia, new fossil research from the University of Adelaide suggests.

Published in the American Journal of Botany, the research describes two new fossil species of Metrosideros, the scientific name for P?hutukawa and related species. The fossils, found near St Helens, East Coast Tasmania, come from roughly the middle of the Cenozic era of about 25 million years ago.

“The R?t?, the most famous of which is the P?hutukawa otherwise known as the New Zealand Christmas Tree, is one of New Zealand’s most iconic flowering plants, holding a special place in the hearts of Kiwis and is of particular significance in Maori culture,” says researcher Myall Tarran, PhD candidate in the University of Adelaide’s School of Biological Sciences. His research has been supervised by Professor Bob Hill, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Sciences at the University of Adelaide, and Dr Peter Wilson, a Principal Research Scientist at the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, in collaboration with Associate Professor Greg Jordan, University of Tasmania, and Honorary Associate Professor Mike Macphail, Australian National University.

“It is also one of, if not the, most widely spread flowering plant groups in the Pacific. It grows in Hawaii, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, Tahiti, the Bonin Islands near Japan, on sub-Antarctic islands, and many other islands in between, as well as having single representatives in Africa and South America.”

Read more at University of Adelaide

Photo credit: Kahuroa via Wikimedia Commons

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