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Forest Vines to Snow Tussocks: The Story of New Zealand Plants


The area of the Hawaiian islands is much less than that of New Zealand but their isolation is much greater, since the nearest continent, North America, is 4000 km distant and both Australasia and Asia are about 7000 km distant. The Hawaiian islands are entirely volcanic and have arisen sequentially on a north-west to south-east line over the last 4-5 million years. Hawaiʻi, the southernmost island, is thus the youngest and is also the largest and highest (4000 m). There seems little possibility, geologically, that these islands have ever been connected to a continent, so botanists and zoologists alike envisage their being stocked by chance immigrants with subsequent evolution of new species. Thus it has been estimated that 272 immigrant species could have evolved into the present approximately 1200 native higher plant species of Hawaiʻi. The distinguishing characteristics of floras that have been derived in this way can be outlined as follows: