23. NEW ZEALAND
New Zealand, Madagascar and New Caledonia are the oldest islands in the world (c. 80 mill. years), and all have a unique selection of animals, birds and plants.
|Cushion forget-me-not (Mysosotis cf. pulvinaris) - ein minneblom/forglemmegei|
New Zealand, Madagascar and New Caledonia are the oldest islands in the world (c. 80 mill. years), and all have a unique selection of animals, birds and plants. The mountain formation in New Zealand is, on the other hand, relative young, and so are the mountain plants. However, they are primarily derived from the older lowland flora belonging to the Antarctic floristic kingdom. Thus they appear exotic to us, such as the genus Acaena (known by its Maori name bidi-bidi) with its hooked dry nutlets, and the umbellifer Aciphylla (Spaniard grass) with its stout, spiny leaves. New Zealand was isolated before the mammals became important on Earth, and does not even have marsupials such as Australia. Giant birds were instead grazers. Now all of these have gone extinct, however, the plants’ spiny defensive leaves do still exist.
Some northern plants have spread southwards through long-distance dispersal, and there are several species of gentians (Chionogentias) and forget-me-nots (Myosotis). The white cushion forget-me-not (M. cf. pulvinaris) is an excellent plant with us. However, there are no large, flying insects with colour vision in New Zealand. Thus these blue-flowering genera have lost their colours, and the species which have evolved in New Zealand are instead mostly white.