Megaherbs! - Observation of the Week, 1/24/23

Our Observation of the Week is this group of Campbell Island Daisies (Pleurophyllum speciosum), seen in New Zealand by @genevieveearly!

Genevieve Early’s parents both have a scientific background and her father was an entomologist, so she tells me “I have always been encouraged to be curious and observant in nature.” She’s recently gotten into nature photography, particularly macro photography, and after having returned to university as an adult is “currently a postgraduate research student studying the effect of a native New Zealand fungus on invasive pines.”

Last year she earned a scholarship to travel on the Heritage Adventurer, “travelling around New Zealand's subantarctic islands and the Fiordland area. I was most excited to see the unique megaherbs on Campbell, Auckland and the Snares Islands, of which Pleurophyllum speciosum is my favourite example.”

Megaherbs (what a great name) are large, herbaceous plants with showy flowers that evolved in subantarctic islands. Potentially a form of island gigantism, these plants are an amazing sight, according to Genevieve.

Megaherbs form beautiful meadows of large and often colourful flowers on these cold and windy islands. The floral displays look more like something I would associate with tropical flora - almost jarring to see against the subantarctic backgrounds of tussock, cliffs and windswept forest or shrubland. Seeing the large Southern Royal Albatross nesting amongst the flowering megaherbs [above] was a highlight of the trip for me.

On the Auckland Islands and Campbell Island, megaherbs were threatened by overgrazing of animals introduced in the 1800s (sheep, pigs, cattle and rabbits) but the populations are bouncing back after these animals (except for pigs on Auckland Island) have been removed.

Genevieve (above) has been an iNat user since 2019 and used to post observations periodically and create distribution maps for her university work. Last year, though, she stepped up her iNat game.

In 2022 I set myself a challenge to get to 1000 unique species observed before the end of the year (which I narrowly missed, by not having an internet connection to upload while I was in the subantarctics!). Challenging myself to do this has changed how I view nature around me - I am both more appreciative of native/endemic species variety and habitats I encounter, and I am also more aware of common weeds and invasive animals as I now notice their impact and abundance. Using iNaturalist has made me much more clued up about the world around me and more likely to notice species I would otherwise have missed, as I learn to recognise and identify what is around me in different habitats I go to.

(Photo of Genevieve by R. Eastmann-Densem - @robbed)

- Pleurophyllum speciosum appears on the back of the $5 New Zealand banknote.

- Check out all of the observations of Pleurophyllum on iNat!

- Here’s an older video about Campbell Island/Motu Ihupuku that includes an interview with botanist Lorna Little about the island’s megaherbs.

Posted by tiwane tiwane, 24 January, 2023 23:40


Terrific photos!

Posted by thibaudaronson 12 days ago (Flag)

Fabulous plants!

Posted by susanhewitt 12 days ago (Flag)

Impressive to identify 1000 species in just one year!
Also, beautiful pictures! I was not familiar with the concept of megaherbs. Very interesting!

Posted by lisa_petersson 12 days ago (Flag)


Posted by catullus 12 days ago (Flag)


Posted by vireyajacquard 12 days ago (Flag)

Love the albatross for scale! Great captures and thanks for sharing!

Posted by featherenthusiast 12 days ago (Flag)

omg Genevieve is so cool!!

Posted by diegoalmendras 12 days ago (Flag)

Amazing sight indeed...:)
Great observation!

Posted by derrell_d 12 days ago (Flag)

Wow, I had never heard of these...very cool!

Posted by cthawley 12 days ago (Flag)

Edited and included a link to the nice Wikipedia article about megaherbs. iNat NZ's own @meurkc is a co-author of one of the sources cited on Wikipedia.

Posted by tiwane 12 days ago (Flag)

Great observation!

Posted by ramzk 12 days ago (Flag)

I love the shot with the ... albatross, I think?

Posted by garyyankech 12 days ago (Flag)


Posted by cesarcastillo 12 days ago (Flag)

Great OotW. Megaherbs are so cool!

Posted by tadamcochran 12 days ago (Flag)


Posted by observerjosh 12 days ago (Flag)


Posted by pandiantensingh 11 days ago (Flag)


Posted by atinaudkm 11 days ago (Flag)

Very interesting. Thank you for sharing!

Posted by chuckt2007 11 days ago (Flag)

One of my bucket list places to go. Those oversized herbs are awesome

Posted by rayray 11 days ago (Flag)


Posted by roman_romanov 11 days ago (Flag)

I went down there with Heritage Expeditions about 12 years ago and it is just incredible! Insane plants, sea lions, penguins, albatross and so much more. 10/10, would go again! So glad you got to go down there and appreciate it, Genevieve! Looking forward to seeing more of your observations this year.

Posted by lisa_bennett 10 days ago (Flag)


Posted by gcwarbler 2 days ago (Flag)

Add a Comment

Sign In or Sign Up to add comments