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Lepicolea scolopendra – a cool climate liverwort June 2019
Lepicolea scolopendra (Hook.) Dumort. ex Trevis. is a liverwort (Fig 1) which will likely undergo a significant range contraction in Australian within the next 100 years. It currently occupies cold, mesic environments such as shaded rainforests or higher elevation woodlands, shrublands and similar where ambient conditions are cool and stable in summer and—in some areas—under snow in winter.
Archibald Menzies (1754–1842) collected the type material of Lepicolea scolopendra in hills around Dusky Sound New Zealand; in 1791 while serving as botanist on a naval exploration of the Pacific (Naish 1991). This collection was significant as the first collection of what ultimately became a new plant family Lepicoleaceae Schust. from Lepicolea Dumort. (APNI 2019) and along with other collections by Menzies at the time were regarded as founding European collections of the New Zealand bryoflora (Scott 1971). Hooker (1818) described from Menzies’ material the species Jungermannia scolopendra and coined the specific epithet according to its ‘closely pinnate and deflexed branches’. Hooker viewed its habit as indicated in its description and accompanying illustration (Fig 2) as an erect plant with deflexed pinnate branches. Its pendant habit as an epiphyte was possibly not observed by Hooker however its often curved and pendant shoots equally fit the specific epithet; the sometimes anticlinal-pendant growth of the gametophyte rather than the deflexed thorn-like growth of the branches as Hooker noted. Schuster (2000) states that Lepicolea scolopendra is never pendulous—in contrast to Meagher and Fuhrer (2003) who report its habit as cascades on trees and shrubs. The cascading or pendant habit is common in Australia and Rodway (1916) notes both habits in Tasmanian material.
Australia and New Zealand share the same two species Lepicolea scolopendra and Lepicolea attenuata (Mitt.) Steph. (APNI 2019, Engel and Glenny 2008) and there are 10 species in total (Söderström et al 2016) distributed variously in southern Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, South America and Africa. The main (key) character difference between the two Australian species is that the former has filamentous leaf tips with several cells lacking chlorophyll, giving the gametophytes a conspicuous bristly appearance. This is shown in the leaf illustration of Hooker (Fig 2). Lepicolea scolopendra commonly occupies soil, tree roots, rock or bark of various shrubs and trees; often near the ground. Scott (1985) regarded it infrequent as an epiphyte in Nothofagus gullies (southern Australia) while Rodway (1916) reports it to be very common in Tasmania. References APNI (2019) Australian Plant Name Index – APNI. https://www.anbg.gov.au/apni/ Engel JJ and Glenny D (2008) A flora of the liverworts and hornworts of New Zealand – Volume 1. Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden, Volume 110. Missouri Botanical Garden Press, U.S.A. Hooker WJ (1818) Musci Exotici containing figures and descriptions of new or little known foreign mosses and other cryptogamic subjects, volume 1. Richard and Arthur Taylor, London. Meagher D and Fuhrer B (2003) A field guide to the mosses and allied plants of southern Australia. Australian Biological Resources Study, Canberra. Naish J (1991) Archibald Menzies: Surgeon Botanist. West of England Medical Journal 106(5), 108–109. Rodway L (1916) Tasmanian Bryophyta: Vol II, Hepatics. The Royal Society of Tasmania, Hobart. Schuster RM (2000) Austral Hepaticae, Part 1. Nova Hedwigia, Beihefte, Beih. 118. Gebruder Borntraeger Verlagsbuchhandlung, Science Publishers. Scott GAM (1971) New Zealand Bryology; past, present and future. New Zealand Journal of Botany 9(4), 739–743. Scott GAM (1985) Southern Australian Liverworts. Australian Flora and Fauna Series, Number 2. Australian Government Publishing Services, Canberra. Söderström L, Hagborg A, von Konrat M, Bartholomew-Began S, Bell D, Briscoe L, Brown E, Cargill DC, Costa DP, Crandall-Stotler BJ, Cooper ED, Dauphin G, Engel JJ, Feldberg K, Glenny D, Gradstein SR, He X, Heinrichs J, Hentschel J, Ilkiu-Borges AL, Katagiri T, Konstantinova NA, Larraín J, Long DG, Nebel M, Pócs T, Felisa Puche F, Reiner-Drehwald E, Renner MAM, Sass-Gyarmati A, Schäfer-Verwimp A, Moragues JGS, Stotler RE, Sukkharak P, Thiers BM, Uribe J, Váňa J, Villarreal JC, Wigginton M, Zhang L, Zhu R-L (2015) World checklist of hornworts and liverworts. PhytoKeys 59: 1–828. doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.59.6261