Hairs and pigments keep giant herbs hot in the cold

[This story first ran on BBC Earth, 16 December 2016]

For many people, New Zealand sits in a far corner of the world. But if you wish to visit the country’s most remote island, you would have to sail south of the mainland for 600 km into the Antarctic Ocean. At the end of the almost three-day journey, you would reach New Zealand’s southern-most territory, Campbell Island.

The island is cold, wet and windy. Temperatures rarely climb above 10 Celsius; every day is cloudy, and on most days the sun peeks through for less than an hour; strong winds (> 30km/h) sweep the island. The drizzle never seems to end. Although Campbell Island received UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1998 for its unique biodiversity, nobody is offering tour packages.

In other regions of the world where high winds and low temperatures prevail, plants stay small. Insects pollinators are few too, so flowering plants tend to grow plain-coloured flowers and rely on self- or wind-pollination. Some plants on Campbell Island however, buck this general trend.


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