Garden News Blog

First Day of Fieldwork in New Caledonia!

For our first day of fieldwork we joined Barbara Turner, a Ph.D. student from the University of Vienna studying the ebony and persimmon genus, Diospyros (Ebenaceae), and Céline Chambrey, a botanist from IRD, on an already planed excursion. We made two stops, Gadji and Yahoué, both of which are within 15 minutes of Nouméa.

Gadji is a site right on the coast and at this location we had the pleasure of meeting the couple responsible for the fabulous Endemia website, Daniel and Irène Letocart. They are experts on all things New Caledonian, but Irène seems to specialize on the flora. She identified every plant we saw to genus and most of them to species! This is an impressive skill in a country that has ca. 3300 species of plants. With Daniel’s, Irène’s and Céline’s help in locating them, I was fortunate to make three Anacardiaceae collections on my first day out. We found Euroschinus obtusifolia var. obtusifolia at Godji, and Semecarpus atra and what we have preliminarily identified as Euroschinus verrucosa at Yahoué. Unfortunately all of these collections were sterile, which makes them much harder to identify than if they had been in flower or fruit. Godji was a very flat site that was easy to navigate; Yahoué was extremely steep at times with slick packed mud and lots of edge-of-mountain traversing. The trail just past the waterfall was about a 60º incline.

In addition to the Anacards, some other notable plants from today were a simple, unlobed leaf passion flower vine (Passiflora sp., Passifloraceae),

the mangroves Sonneratia alba (Sonneratiaceae)

and Bruguiera gymnorrhiza (Rhizophoraceae),

and Dysoxylum bijugum (Meliaceae) - a different species of Dysoxylum than the one we saw at the zoo. Tomorrow we are off to Réserve Spéciale de Faune du Col d’Amieu et Table Unio about an hour and a half north of Noumea to do some collecting with our collaborator, Jérôme Munz.

Susan Pell is the director of science at BBG, where she studies the evolutionary relationships of the cashew family. She holds a PhD in plant biology and teaches continuing education and training courses in genetics, angiosperm morphology, and systematics.

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Image, top of page:
Bay of Gadji
View from the beach at Gadji. Photo by Susan Pell.
Views from the trail at Yahoué. Photo by Susan Pell.
Anacardiaceae Euroschinus obtusifolia v ob SKP1124_3
Euroschinus obtusifolia var. obtusifolia (Anacardiaceae) leaflet profile showing undulate surface and red margin. Photo by Susan Pell.
Passifloraceae Passiflora sp Gadji
Passifloraceae Passiflora sp Gadji. Photo by Susan Pell.
Sonneratiaceae Sonneratia alba 1
Sonneratiaceae Sonneratia alba. Photo by Susan Pell.
Rhizophoraceae Bruguiera Gadji 2
Bruguiera gymnorrhiza. Photo by Susan Pell.