The earliest collection of an elusive alien? Evidence of early introduction of Chenopodium ficifolium (Chenopodiaceae) in New Zealand.
Historical records and the current status of Chenopodium ficifolium (Chenopodiaceae) in New Zealand are considered. This species of Eurasian origin was and still is occasionally reported in New Zealand as a casual alien since its supposedly first record by Kirk in 1896, who found the species in 1892 in the port of Wellington on a ballast heap. At least seven reliable collections/records are known from locations ranging from the North Island (Auckland and Wellington) to the South Island (Christchurch), and one of the southern Titi Islands. However, the actual distribution of the species in New Zealand is probably underestimated because of its similarity to C. album. Probably C. ficifolium was initially introduced to New Zealand much earlier than 1892, as evidenced by the herbarium specimen collected by J. Everard Home in the 1840s. That specimen was recently found in the Turczaninow historical herbarium at the National Herbarium of Ukraine (KW); it is one of many other historical specimens at KW that were collected in New Zealand by Home, A. Cunningham and R. Cunningham in the first half of the 19th century. Most probably, Turczaninow received these New Zealand specimens from the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew in exchange for his Siberian or other collections. We expect that a thorough revision of New Zealand specimens in the Turczaninow herbarium at KW may bring important and interesting results not only on native plants (including type specimens), but also for non-native species introduced during the early stages of the European colonization, which will document their earliest stages of expansion in New Zealand.