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Population Ecology of Thelymitra matthewsii Cheeseman Orchidaceae, in Northern New Zealand

The terrestrial orchid Thelymitra matthewsii Cheeseman, uncommon in New Zealand, was studied to increase knowledge of the species life cycle, morphology and ecology. Results will enhance future conservation management for the species. New information related to the morphology of T. matthewsii was obtained. The species was found to emerge in one of four discrete life stages of distinctive morphology and height range that remained constant for the season, not developing into a more advanced life stage. The leaf of the three pre adult life stages designated a hook, a spiral, and a non flowering stage, did not inflate at the base, but rose smoothly from the tuber. Apparent morphological differences in the column between descriptions of the Australian taxon and the small New Zealand sample examined suggested further study was needed. Comprehensive monthly monitoring was carried out at five study sites in three locations in the Te Paki area of the Far North, from 2002 to 2004. No patterns emerged in plant life stage succession, flowering, and presence or absence at labels reinforcing the concept that variability was a common component of the population census. Seasonal and partial absence was a major component of the populations. An average of 32.8% of plants, over five study sites, were present throughout three seasons, while 66.9% were recorded as absent (not visible) at monitoring. New plants appearing in 2003 and 2004 showed a high percentage of subsequent absence (mean 85.7%). To determine population stability, recruitment and absence were compared. Plant absence exceeded recruitment by 7% (mean plant absence 30.5%; mean recruitment 23.4%). Plants continued to appear during the monitoring period, and labeled plants increased two-fold over commencement numbers. Adults recorded as 28% of labeled plants over three seasons, were out numbered by pre-flowering stages. Only 5% of population numbers exhibited succession from a smaller to a flowering plant. Life stage modeling indicated a life stage was more likely to be followed by the same stage than an expected successive stage. Thelymitra matthewsii was found to be present in four substrates in the Far North. The survey of vegetation found the indigenous species Kunzea ericoides and the exotic Hakea gibbosa dominant for both height, and cover. Litter and bare ground dominated ground cover. Differences in vegetation and ground cover, of sites supporting T. matthewsii and comparison sites that did not, were minor and suggested that another factor, for example a suitable fungal partner, influenced the species presence or absence. The results of the study indicated the present threat classification of Thelymitra matthewsii is inadequate in the light of the species relatively circumscribed, widely separated habitats, the small number of reproducing individuals and vulnerability to habitat modification.
Type of thesis
Fraser, E. A. (2008). Population Ecology of Thelymitra matthewsii Cheeseman Orchidaceae, in Northern New Zealand (Thesis, Master of Science (MSc)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/2291
The University of Waikato
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