A blog maintained by Tevita Kete, PGR Officer
Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva, Fiji Islands
This weblog documents the activities of Pacific Agricultural Genetic Resources Network (PAPGREN), along with other information on plant genetic resources (PGR) in the Pacific.
The myriad varieties found within cultivated plants are fundamental to the present and future productivity of agriculture. PAPGREN, which is coordinated by the Land Resources Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), helps Pacific countries and territories to conserve their crop genetic diversity sustainably, with technical assistance from the Bioversity International (BI) and support from NZAID and ACIAR.
SPC also hosts the Centre of Pacific Crops and Trees (CEPaCT). The CEPaCT maintains regional in vitro collections of crops important to the Pacific and carries out research on tissue culture technology. The CEPaCT Adviser is Dr Mary Taylor (MaryT@spc.int), the CEPaCT Curator is Ms Valerie Tuia (ValerieT@spc.int).
PAPGREN coordination and support
Mr William Wigmore
Mr Adelino S. Lorens
Dr Lois Englberger
Mr Apisai Ucuboi
Dr Maurice Wong
Mr Tianeti Beenna Ioane
Mr Frederick Muller
Mr Herman Francisco
Ms Rosa Kambuou
Ms Laisene Samuelu
Mr Jimi Saelea
Mr Tony Jansen
Mr Finao Pole
Mr Frazer Bule Lehi
Interested in GIS?
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Posted 4:08 PM by Luigi
Cook's lost scurvy grass found in New Zealand
By Kathy Marks, Asia-Pacific Correspondent, The Independent, 17 October 2006.
A New Zealand plant known as "Cook's scurvy grass", which Captain James Cook fed to his sailors to ward off the fatal disease, has been found growing on a tiny island, having been previously thought almost extinct.
The Yorkshire-born explorer made great efforts to keep his crews in good health and to ward off scurvy, caused by vitamin C deficiency. He gave them vinegar and sauerkraut, and while charting the coast of New Zealand in 1769, harvested the grassy plant, known as "nau" by Maori tribes.
The grass, a type of cress, proved a valuable food source. But in recent times it was thought to have almost died out, found only in a handful of small colonies on the west coast of the North Island. Twenty-five years ago, ecologists had a hunch that an islet off the west coast, near the Waikato district, was a likely site for the species. But although it was only 150 metres off shore, it was inaccessible from the mainland except by helicopter, because of dangerous currents and sharks.
Last week a Department of Conservation team landed on the islet, courtesy of a helicopter belonging to New Zealand Steel, which was working in the region. It found more than 80 plants, growing in an area half the size of a rugby field.
The team leader, Andrea Brandon, a plant ecologist, said that only two of the mainland sites contained more than 20 plants. "This is a very significant find for the region, and indeed for the whole of the North Island, where this species is now seriously at risk of going extinct," she said.
She and her two colleagues found the grass, Lepidium oleraceum, growing under tree cover. Dr Brandon said that Cook had recognised the value of the plant, which grows to a height of about one metre. "It was recorded as abundant back then," she said.
Cook came across it when he visited New Zealand for the first time, during his first great voyage of exploration. He harvested it again when he returned to that part of the world.
Scurvy was a scourge of the Royal Navy, because it was impossible to store fresh fruit and vegetables for the duration of long voyages, which led to sailors falling ill with vitamin C deficiency. In the late 18th century lime juice was discovered to be effective in preventing the disease. The Navy began distributing regular rations, which led to the nickname "limey" for British sailors. A New Zealand plant known as "Cook's scurvy grass", which Captain James Cook fed to his sailors to ward off the fatal disease, has been found growing on a tiny island, having been previously thought almost extinct.
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