Cool Old Plants, Warm New World
Image: Detail, Ranunculus victoriensis B.G.Briggs (Ranunculaceae), Victorian Buttercup, (MEL 68273), National Herbarium of Victoria, Royal Botanic Gardens of Victoria.
Curation notes by: Casey Gibson, PhD Candidate, Centre for Ecosystem Science and the Evolution & Ecology Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales.Contributors
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Copyright in image with Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria. Copyright in text with Casey Gibson.
This image is of a herbarium sheet of Ranunculus victoriensis, the Victorian Buttercup, a rare plant endemic to parts of the Victorian high country.
These plants were collected by T. B. Muir on Tuesday 7 November 1961 at Wilkinson Lodge on the Bogong High Plains, at 5400ft (approximately 1650m) above sea-level. Collection occurred approximately four to six weeks after snow-melt following a season of average snow depth.
During my data collection visit at the National Herbarium of Victoria, I recall seeing this sheet and being particularly happy with how beautifully the flowers had pressed, and the detailed information provided on the label.
Around the world, climate change is a key factor explaining why many plants are reproducing earlier, or for longer periods. As the earth warms, alpine regions are changing. The snowline isn’t reaching as far down the mountains and the winter cold doesn’t last as long as it once did so the snow melts earlier. What does this mean for plants in alpine areas? In my research I am looking at herbarium collections to see whether flowering times have changed since collecting began.
For this project, I am counting flower buds, open flowers and fruits for ninety cold-adapted plant species from thousands and thousands of herbarium sheets. The reproduction phase data that I collect, along with snow depth and climate records, will allow me to determine whether or not Australia’s alpine flora is responding to climate change.
Curation notes by: Casey Gibson, PhD Candidate, Centre for Ecosystem Science and the Evolution & Ecology Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales.