Mystery Plant on Handrail, Wellington

A photo of an unknown plant high above Wellington’s harbour.


Having completely lost track of the number of stairs, worse luck, I gave more attention to photo opportunities than usual. I was, in fact, taking any excuse to pause, even on the downward path of this solo climb above Wellington’s undeniably picturesque harbour.

And so it was that I saw an odd growth on the nominally painted handrail.

Close-up of sage-green fern-like growth on white handrail.

Unknown flora on handrail in Wellington

Being more interested in plants for their photo-worthiness than for themselves, I have still not pursued an identification in the same way that I would for, oh, say, an avian. But recently inspired by the bewildering array of aralias (true, false, and semi-false – I mean, what’s up with that?), I feel it’s likely a false (or, perhaps, a semi-false) fern. Or fungus.

Rigour is all.


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10 Responses to Mystery Plant on Handrail, Wellington

  1. Jim Robertson says:

    I’ll put in a bid for it being a lichen of some sort. It is not a lichen I have seen before, but it looks very “licheny” and the raised circles are very lichen like as well.

    I tried matching it in Google Images and all Google gave me was grasshoppers, a few other insects and a bird ☺☺

    Doing a search for lichen on Google Images didn’t turn up a match either, but some were a little close…

    I like the little “person” in the middle of it.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim R – A lichen makes more sense to me than a fungus or fern – although it has a bit of that staghorn fern look to my eye. I expect Someone will know . . .

  2. And why is “false aralia” prettier than the real deal? Unless you mean the other “false aralia” that is “false sarsaparilla.” Or Ming aralia, but maybe it’s the progenitor of the lacey variety? This way lies the jungle . . . .

    Your handrail denizen looks like my aloe vera with warts; could the spots be another type of growth on the plant, something parasitical in origin? I started to look at mycological info but of 250,000 fungi in the Australia region, I don’t think I will live long enough to identify anything amongi the fungi. However, the sketch of a lichen here is more promising:
    Looks like it should have been featured in Star Trek.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – Boy, tough without the colour, eh? (Turns out cars and mystery plants are more alike than I knew.) I was startled to encounter the semi-false aralia, but hey. Why not, I guess.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – By George, I think you’ve got it. Well done, y’all! It’s interesting actually – I took a bird identification class and that’s what they said to start with – get into the right family and then you can worry about species later. Recognizing the general area/type/category is key.

  3. Whenever asked, “What’s that plant called?” my mother-in-law would always say stitchwort. It satisfied them, she said, “They want AN answer, not THE answer.” That wouldn’t have worked for you, Isabel, ’cause you probably know what stitchwort looks like, right?

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – LOL. Sure, stitchwort is low to the ground, with yellow green, frilly leaves and white flowers. (You didn’t want the right answer, just an answer, right?)

      • Yes. But you care more than I do about worts. (There are many, apparently.) But I like spelunking on the InterWeb (as John calls it).

        Stellaria is a genus of about 90-120 species flowering plants in the family Caryophyllaceae, with a cosmopolitan distribution. Common names include stitchwort and chickweed.

        • Isabel Gibson says:

          Barbara – Oh, chickweed! Not that I actually know what that looks like (either) but I know the name.

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