Cultivating the Cultural Memory of Ranunculus Paucifolius T. Kirk, a South Island Subalpine Buttercup.
Building from an idea outlined in Libby Robin’s landmark study How a Continent Created a Nation (2007), this article traces shifting European attitudes towards Ranunculus paucifolius, a rare subalpine buttercup, from ‘strange and foreign’ to ‘familiar’ then ‘endangered’. I draw from fragments of historical evidence held in museums, botanic gardens, archives, and university teaching collections in order to understand how and why the Castle Hill buttercup became important to Canterbury’s high country identity and in need of safeguarding. Since entering the Western scientific record, R. paucifolius has been observed growing in home gardens and botanic garden nurseries, as well as in the wild and in experimental nursery plots at Castle Hill, its only known habitat, between the Torlesse and Craigieburn ranges in the South Island of New Zealand. Organised around the themes of discovery, classification and conservation, this article unearths certain ambiguities and risks associated with the preservation of regionally and nationally significant plants, and highlights the evolving importance of indigenous flora in cultural memory.
- Arts: Journal Articles