Allan Mere Award for 2006:

Dr Peter de Lange

Left: Peter de Lange on the Catlins River Walk, Otago, April 2021. Photo: © Gillian Crowcroft.
Right: Peter at Te Whanga Lagoon, Chatham Islands / Rēkohu, May 2022. Photo: © Luzie Schmid.
Peter was the Allan Mere recipient for 2006, awarded to him during the Cheeseman Conference, Auckland, Nov 2006.

“Peter de Lange has made important contributions to New Zealand botany through peer-reviewed scientific papers, popular articles, lecturing, plant collections, and mentoring of younger botanists. He has given strong leadership to plant conservation in his role as Threatened Plant Scientist with the Department of Conservation, providing vision, strategy, and pragmatic solutions to conservation problems.”

The NZBS Committee is pleased to announce that this year’s award of the Allan Mere is to Peter de Lange of the Department of Conservation, Auckland.

His nomination was strongly supported by letters from botanists and organisations from throughout New Zealand, and even a few from eastern Australia. The main sponsors of the nomination were Ewen Cameron and Colin Ogle – Ewen did not participate in the NZBS Committee’s decision.

The selections of comments below are from the letters of support and indicate the admiration for Peter from his peers.

In his relatively short botanical career, Peter has made enormous contributions to New Zealand’s botanical knowledge through his field work and plant collections, a remarkable body of peer-reviewed, published papers and many other papers and reports, his delivery of botanical papers at conferences and workshops, his mentoring of other botanists, especially younger ones, and many contributions in areas of plant conservation. In fact, it is now rather difficult to read something on New Zealand vascular botany where if he’s not an author or co-author he is not cited or thanked in the text. Since 1990 Peter has worked as Threatened Plants Scientist, Science & Research Unit, Department of Conservation with research interests in both the native and naturalised vascular flora. He has lectured in many botanical and conservation courses at universities and other institutions, and has served on many committees, some in official roles. Peter maintains strong research interests in issues regarding conservation biology, rarity and threat classification systems, New Zealand/South Pacific insular botany, and ultramafic flora speciation (especially that of the North Cape Scientific Reserve). He has strong interests in the interaction between plant biosystematics, ecology and geology. Through his current PhD research he has learned several cytological techniques including how to obtain chromosomes from New Zealand vascular plant tissues, Genomic In Situ Hybridism, and also investigated the merits of molecular techniques for conservation biology and biosystematics. We believe that he is now an established authority in such matters.
I have found Peter’s breadth of knowledge of New Zealand plants quite extraordinary. His publication output of an average of 9 peer-reviewed publications per year over the last decade is probably without peer in Australasian botany.
Our Society also recognizes the extraordinary level of assistance that Peter has given to a variety of budding botanists from a diversity of fields – this, despite his studying for his own PhD!
Recognition of such specialist work is extremely important and must help long term in the conservation of our land.
Peter is undoubtedly a leading figure in NZ taxonomic botany. In recent years, through a succession of well-written published papers ... he has resolved numerous taxonomic questions regarding the NZ native flora, through formal description of new taxa.
He is a plant taxonomist with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the native flora as well as being intimately involved in threatened plant conservation.
I regard Peter as one of a number of mentors who have both greatly assisted me to do my job and helped improve my botanical skills and knowledge.
I have been impressed by the quantity and quality of his published work and enjoyed working with him on occasions in joint publications. Above all he is an excellent field person and collector with a wide command of the natural sciences and ability to discern something new or different in the field.
Peter has also made a key contribution towards furthering the conservation of threatened plants in NZ by working closely with a wide range of individuals, many within the DOC, but also some outside, who are involved in the day-to-day management of our native flora. This input has generated considerable enthusiasm for threatened plant management and I believe has been pivotal in raising the profile of the threatened plants of NZ.
Peter inspires people to ask questions about our plants, encourages them to learn more about plants and most importantly works hard to protect the unique plant life in NZ.
He possesses not only an amazing depth of knowledge about the plants themselves, but also an appreciation of a much wider breadth of disciplines that are applied to the study of their ecology and taxonomy, including my own area of DNA-based phylogenetics.
His productivity across a wide range of taxonomic groups, his interest in the conservation of rare plants, his interest in floristics, are almost staggering; where does his energy come from? In a mere 18 years, he has published more high quality papers than many botanists do during their entire working life.
His name is associated with a very high proportion of the recent biosystematic plant literature. In particular, it is characterised by a broad familiarity with a number of related disciplines such as ecology, biogeography, geology and of course conservation.

The Allan Mere was presented to Peter during the Cheeseman Symposium wine and cheese evening held at the Auckland Museum on 21st November 2006.

Anthony Wright, President, New Zealand Botanical Society

Citation reproduced from the New Zealand Botanical Society Newsletter, No. 85, Sept 2006.