Tuesday, February 5, 2013

New Zealand's got a new poo moss!

Hold your nose with excitement! Colin Meurk just added an observation to NatureWatch NZ of a new poo moss for New Zealand! It's a moss called Tayloria tasmanica and was previously known from Tasmania and Macquarie Island[see comment below about Macquarie Island]. Colin discovered the distinctive moss on his trip late last month to Stewart Island. Landcare Research moss expert, Allan Fife, identified the specimen.

Poo mosses (family Splachnaceae) are world famous (among moss enthusiasts) for often growing on dung and rotting animals and enticing flies to disperse their spores. Poo mosses one of the few examples of a "lower plant" using insects for dispersal. Many flies are big fans of poo and rotting carcasses, just like poo mosses, and fly just where poo mosses want their spores to go.

Have a close look at Colin's photo. It's a distinctive and attractive moss. If you're from down south, it would be fantastic to get more observations added to NatureWatch NZ. It would also be great to know more about it, including where it grows, whether it is associated with poo or carcasses in New Zealand, and whether flies are dispersing its spores. We also don't know yet whether this is a rare vagrant blown from Tasmania or a permanent member of the Stewart Island flora.
new NZ poo moss
New Zealand's first record of Tayloria tasmanica
NatureWatch NZ observation and photo by Colin Meurk

New Zealand has an expert on these mosses at the University of Auckland, Anne Gaskett. You can hear Anne talking about her research on Tayloria mosses on Radio New Zealand's Our Changing World programme. Te Papa botanist Leon Perrie also has a nice blog post with more about poo mosses in New Zealand.


  1. Allan Fife just updated us on a further development following Colin's discovery. Several moss experts have followed up on the Macquarie Island record of Tayloria tasmanica mentioned in the Flora of Australia. The presence on Macquarie Island was based on a collection by Rodway in 1893. After checking this specimen, it is now clear that this was collected at Macquarie harbour in Tasmania. So Colin's observation in Stewart Island is the first record of this moss growing outside of Tasmania.

  2. And, of course, I should mention that all of this flurry of moss excitement isn't based on a photo alone. Colin also had the forethought to take a sample, which moss expert Allan Fife looked at carefully. This specimen is being added to the Allan Herbarium at Landcare Research.

    Colin will add the specimen ID number to his NatureWatch NZ observation webpage when it's available.