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

General Comments on the Floras of the Subtropical Islands

General Comments on the Floras of the Subtropical Islands

The relatively small total number of species and the few not very distinct endemics indicate that the Kermadecs, like Macquarie, have gained their flora by long distance dispersal in fairly recent geological times. By contrast the larger floras of Norfolk and Lord Howe with their larger page 222numbers of mostly distinctive endemics, including some endemic genera, suggest a much longer history with the possibility of land connections as well as long distance dispersal being involved. Both islands stand on submarine ridges of continental crust and there could have been a succession of volcanic islands in their vicinity, allowing floral continuity over a long period of time, perhaps from when the ridges were still emergent. Thus related species in New Zealand and, say, Lord Howe Island may have resulted from long distance dispersal in either direction at various times followed by divergent evolution, or from two populations of an ancestral form separated following submergence of the Lord Howe Rise. The suggestion of some sort of long term land continuity at the sites of Lord Howe and Norfolk is supported by the presence on each of these islands of at least one species belonging to groups considered to have poor dispersal ability: on Norfolk the conifer Araucaria heterophylla, related to but distinct from A. columnaris of New Caledonia; and on Lord Howe Bubbia howeana belonging to the primitive flowering family Winteraceae whose members are also considered to be unlikely to cross wide ocean gaps.

At least some species shared by New Zealand and the subtropical islands have presumably achieved their widely disjunct distributions more recently by long distance dispersal.