The Climaciaceae are a family of two genera, with the better known Climacium widespread in the northern hemisphere and ditypic. The lesser known Pleuroziopsis is a monotypic genus confined to the northern Pacific Rim. Only one species of Climacium occurs in New Zealand.
When well developed, Climacium dendroides looks, as befitting its epithet, like a small tree. While it is widespread in the northern hemisphere, until recently C. dendroides was known in N.Z. only from the South I. It has, however, now been collected from a high elevation site on Mt Ruapehu in the central North Island. The collection history of this species is remarkably similar to other allegedly “bipolar” species in N.Z., with the earliest confirmed collection made in 1891 at Castle Hill, Canterbury, by T. Kirk. There appear to be two other South I. collections made in the 1890s, followed by an inexplicable collection gap of roughly 40 years’ duration. Subsequently, collections have been made since 1950 from nearly all parts of the South I. The absence of gatherings by numerous capable South I. collectors in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the post-1950 increase in the collection frequency of this species, strongly suggest that C. dendroides is an adventive that expanded its N.Z. range during the first half of the 20th century.
While on the West Coast of the South I. C. dendroides can grow abundantly in damp roadside ditches and dry roadside gravels at low elevations, it is best developed and most often collected from seemingly unmodified wetland native vegetation at mid to upper elevations. The lack of congruity between its collection history and its occurrence in intact native vegetation, sometimes at remote localities, is perplexing and worthy of further investigation.
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