On the Leading Features
Provinces of Nelson and Marlborough, New Zealand.
In his admirable Introductory Essay to the Botany of the Antarctic Voyage, Dr. Hooker writes thus of the physiognomy of the New Zealand Flora:—“The traveller from whatever country, on arriving in New Zealand, finds himself surrounded by a vegetation that is almost wholly new to him: with little that is at first sight striking, except the Treefern and Cordyline of the northern parts, and nothing familiar except possibly the Mangrove; and as he extends his investigations into the Flora, with the exception of Pomaderris and Leptospermum, he finds few forms that remind him of other countries. Of the numerous pines, few recall, by habit and appearance, the idea attached either to trees of this family in the northern hemisphere, or to the Callitris of New Holland, or to the Arancariæ of that country and Norfolk Island: while of the families that on examination indicate the only close affinity between the New Zealand Flora and that of any other country (the Myrtaceæ, Epacrideæ and Proteaceæ) few resemble, in general aspect, their allies in Australia. A paucity of Grasses, an absence of Leguminosæ, an abundance of bushes and ferns, and a want of annual plants, and the prevalent features in the open country; whilst the forests abound in Cryptogamia, and in phænogamic plants, with obscure green flowers and very often of obscure and little known natural orders.”
In a subsequent part of the same Essay, in drawing a comparison between the Floras of New Zealand and Tasmania, he goes on to say:—“In the neighboring island of Tasmania, the Grasses everywhere form a prominent feature; the Cyperaceæ from their size, strength, and cutting foliage, arrest the traveller's progress through the forest; Orchideæ of many kinds carpet the ground in spring with beautiful blossoms; the heaths are gay with Epacridæ; herbs, trees and shrubs of compositæ meet the eye in every direction; whilst the Myrtaceæ and Leguminosæ are characteristics both of the arboreous and shrubby vegetation. The difference is so marked, that I retain the most vivid recollection of the
physiognomy of the Tasmania mountains and valleys; but a very in-different one of the New Zealand forest, where all is, comparatively speaking, blended into one green mass, relieved, at the Bay of Islands, by the symmetrical crown of the Tree-fern, the pale green fountain of foliage of the Dacrydium Cupressinum, and the poplar-like Knightia, overtopping all. It is true that there is more variety in the latter country than is expressed by the selection of a few individuals, and a little reflection recalls a vast number of noble and some beautiful botanical objects, but with the exception of groves of the Kahikatea pine (Podocarpus Dacrydioides) on the swampy river banks, the Pomaderris and Leptospermum on the open hill sides, and Dammara on their crests, there is little to arrest the botanist's first glance; and nothing in the massing or grouping of the species of any natural order, renders that order an important element in the general landscape, or-gives individuality to any of its parts by flowers and gaiety, or by foliage and gloom. The same features prevail even so far south as Lord Auckland's group, where Dracophyllum, Coprosma, Metrosideros, Panax, and a shrubby Veronica unite to form an evergreen mantle: and I suspect, from the accounts I have heard and read, that they are repeated on the damp cool coasts of Chili, to the north of the region of the sombre beech forests which clothe the Fuegian Islands.”
The colonist of the Middle Island of New Zealand, if he happens to have visited the Province of Auckland, and more particularly its northern portions, will not fail to recognise in this beautiful and striking language a vivid picture of the forest scenery of the Northern Island. But it does not apply to the vegetation of Nelson, Canterbury, or Otago. The fact is, that in this respect, Dr. Hooker has fallen into the same mistake as all other writers upon New Zealand, until within a very few years. From, say, about the year 1830 until 1850, the Bay of Islands and Auckland were considered to be New Zealand, and a variety of works were given to the world descriptive of this country, founded upon a visit to its northern extremity. Until the settlements of Canterbury and Otago were founded, the Middle Island of New Zealand was hardly known at all. It is true that the great navigator Cook selected two of its harbours, Queen Charlotte's Sound and Dusky Bay, as his favorite resting-places; and the celebrated botanists who accompanied him, Banks, Solander, and the Forsters, collected their specimens in the neighbourhood of these harbours, and saw and studied its Flora there. But of the intervening portions of the country, they appear to have seen hardly anything, and the plains and grassy downs of the Middle Island, now the chief field of settlement, and constituting the great bulk of the country over which the flood of colonial enterprise is spreading, were to them unknown. Dr. Hooker himself, with the Antarctic Expedition, visited the Bay of Islands for a short time; but unless we are mistaken, the ships did not touch at any port in the Middle Island.
The characteristic features of the vegetation of the Middle Island of New Zealand may be largely stated thus: the Eastern and central portions of the country are covered with grass; the Western side, with forest. It is not unreasonable to conjecture, that at a former period, possibly not very remote, the whole of the surface of the island was clothed with continuous forest. On many of the sheep
runs, now lamentably destitute of growing timber, the settlers find an available substitute in logs of sound fresh wood lying plentifully scattered on the hill sides; and in travelling over perfectly treeless plains, where nothing woody at present grows loftier than a “Wild Irishman” (Discaria Toumatou, Hook., f.), stumps are frequently encountered, with their roots spreading out laterally just as they grew when the tree was living; and the swamps and hollow places on these plains contain an immense abundance of prostrate logs and large branches, affording a supply of firewood sufficient to last for many years. The great agent in the destruction of the primitive forest, has undoubtedly been fire. Unlike the Eucalyptus of Australia, the New Zealand forest tree is at once killed by excessive heat. A fire may pass through an Australian forest, clearing up the dead fallen timber and scorching and blackening the living; but the gum trees (many of them even if burnt to the ground), still retain their vitality, and Phænix-like, send forth new foliage and branches. I cannot call to my memory a single New Zealand tree that does the same. As the New Zealand forest is generally much more dense and humid than that of Australia, fires running through it are not so frequent, and occur only in the very driest seasons, when the moss which carpets the surface has parted with all its moisture, not-withstanding the shade of its leafy canopy. Such, however, was the case two years ago, when immense quantities of valuable timber in the neighbourhood of Wellington and Banks' Peninsula were destroyed in this manner. When this happens, the forest is completely killed. Melancholy skeletons of dead trees represent what were formerly masses of cool foliage. No growth takes place either from the stems or roots. But a secondary growth of shrubs arises. Various species of Veronica, Aristotelia, Pittosporum, Aralia, Coprosma, Fuchsia, Leptospermum and others, soon form dense copses, and with these are blended, according to climate and nature of the soil, varying proportions of ferns and grasses. The larger forest trees will also make their appearance occasionally, growing from seed—more especially the varieties of the birch of the colonists, (Fagus) and the Totara (Podocarpus Totara). But as fires are now the rule, lighted either by the Maoris—where there are any Maoris—or by the colonist, to increase the extent of his pastures, the vegetation is soon reduced to the grasses, ferns, and those other families of plants which maintain their ground, though annually scorched.
By a process of this sort, it is reasonable to suppose that the forest has been cleared away from the great breadth of the eastern and interior portions of the Middle Island. Groves of trees and even forests are still met with there. But they occur in localities which favour the above hypothesis. For where they now exist, the surface is either so broken and mountainous, as to be worthless for occupation; or they are surrounded by swamps and running water; or, as in the southern portions of the country, the climate is so humid as to be unfavorable to the spreading of bush fires. Proceeding, for instance, from Cape Campbell, southwards, the country is treeless until the ground begins to rise rapidly towards the flanks of the Kaikoura mountains, the seaward aspect of which is clothed with forest. The limestone downs which skirt the coast to the south of the Kaikouras, are entirely without timber. On the Canterbury plain, a few groves survive, surrounded by swamps. The
ragged surface of Banks' Peninsula is almost equally divided between forest and open country, the former, however, chiefly occupying the hollows and moister portions. Proceeding still further south, for a distance of 200 miles, no timber to speak of is met with until we reach the Promontory which contains the harbour of Otago, where a broken surface, and the prevalence of rain have combined to preserve a noble breadth of forest. To the same cause the wooded ranges which border the coast between the Clutha and the Mataura, appear to owe their existence, while the picturesque groves and masses of wood which are sown broadcast over the fertile plains of Southland, still live, I should say, by virtue of the superior dampness of the soil, and the corresponding humidity of the climate.
While the characteristic feature of the eastern half of the Middle Island of New Zealand, is a grassy surface, now feeding several millions on sheep, that of its western mountains and sea board, is almost unbroken forest. Of the character of that forest at the level of the sea, I have had but limited means of judging; but in the interior and more especially at the higher levels, one genus of trees, the Fagus or “birch” of the colonists, occupies the ground, to the exclusion of almost everything else, and impresses its peculiar physiognomy upon the landscape. In the Provinces of Nelson and Marlborough, with which I am more especially acquainted, I should say that of those portions clothed with wood, certainly nineteen-twentieths are covered with the different varieties of Fagus. It appears to be as in the Fuegian Islands, the characteristic tree of the country. A fringe of land bordering the coasts, and more particularly on the western side of the island, will doubtless show a very considerable variety of those trees which are met with in the warmer valleys of the Northern Island of New Zealand. On the plains and the alluvial soils there will be found an abundance of pines, and the Flora will bear, what may be called, the ordinary New Zealand aspect. But no sooner do we leave the lower levels, and rise a few hundred feet along the mountain sides, than we find ourselves in a peculiar forest, which occupies the ground, as exclusively as the pine in the colder parts of the northern hemisphere, or the Eucalyptus in the Australian ranges. We are surrounded by evergreen beeches of various sorts; and nothing breaks the monotony of the forest, save, here and there, the pale-green Rimu, which mostly loves the hollows, or the cypress-like foliage and red stem of the hardy Thuja Doniana, which grows on the summits of the ridges.
Blind Bay is enclosed between two lofty ranges, which, separated at their seaward extremities by a distance of some forty miles, gradually approximate, as we trace them southwards, until they coalesce in the elevated region of the Spencer Mountains. Upon the flanks of these, the principal rivers of the northern part of the Middle Island, the Wairau, the Buller, the Clarence, and the Dillon take their rise. The eastern arm of these two ranges, divides Blind Bay from the Valley of the Wairau, widening, as it advances northward, and enclosing between its broken and deeply indented fingers, the estuaries of the Pelorus and Queen Charlotte's Sound. The western arm, wider and loftier, sinks down to the north upon the shores of Massacre or Golden Bay, enclosing between its spurs the valleys of the Takaka and the Aorere rivers. These two great ranges are clothed with an almost unbroken monotony of evergreen
beeches. A botanist landing at the head of Queen Charlotte's Sound, or where the Pelorus river enters the sea, would find a considerable variety of noble trees, and many most beautiful evergreen shrubs. Where the ground was moistest, and indicated the existence of stagnant water, he would be surrounded by the grand mast-like stems of the White Pine (Podocarpus Dacrydioides) generally green with moss, and often festooned with climbing parasites. On the drier ground he would find the Mai or Red Pine (Podocarpus spicata), cleaner in the bark, less mast-like than the former, and carrying a greater head of foliage. On the still drier ground, there would be the noble Totara (Podocarpus Totara), ten feet, perhaps, in diameter, or even more, with its brown bark scaling off in long vertical strips, and its branches shooting athwart one another with the picturesqueness of the old English Oak. Mixed up with these he might find the Pukatea (Atherosperma Novœ Zelandiœ) with its bright green foliage, its pale grey bark and deep parietal buttresses, the Tawa (Nesodaphne Tawa), and the Kowhai (Edwardsia microphylla, Soppora tetraptera, var. B. microphylla, Hook. f., Ed.) mostly near the running water; the former pale-green, branching and umbrageous, the latter tall, slender, and scant of shade, but gay in the early spring with an abundance of its leguminous yellow blossoms.
Other well known forms of New Zealand trees would meet his eye: the Hinau, for instance, the Miro, the Maire, and more abundant than these perhaps, the beautiful Titoki. In the wooded glens and on their banks, he would see the black rough stem and the symmetrical fronds of the Fern tree. He might find (though they are not abundant) the true and only palm of New Zealand, the Areca sapida, nestling in the most sheltered spots. So long, in fact, as he confined himself to the lower levels and alluvial valleys, he would find himself surrounded by a noble forest of varied and striking vegetation. But if he now leave the valleys and commence the ascent of the mountain ranges, he will soon find himself surrounded by the characteristic vegetation of the country. The Conifers, the Laurels, and the Myrtles, remain beneath him: and stretching away on all sides in unbroken and monotonous continuity, extends a forest of evergreen beeches, carpeted with moss, and unencumbered by that entangled cordage of parasitical climbers, which renders the forest of the richer bottoms almost impenetrable without the aid of the billhook.
But, higher than the beech forests, there is a Flora of great interest and beauty. In this portion of the Middle Island the species of Fagus do not ascend to a greater elevation, than, at the most, 5000 feet. Before we leave them, in our upward progress, they have dwindled down to dwarf shrubs, shorn by the mountain blasts, and streaming with hoary lichens. At length they are altogether beneath us. Pushing through a zone of no great width; of shrubs, belonging to the orders Dracophyllum, Senecio, Veronica, Gaultheria, and others, we emerge upon the open mountain summits, where, in winter, snow lies to the depth of many feet; where even in the height of summer, it still holds its ground in the hollows in large dazzling masses; and where not a month of the year passes over, that it does not fall and whiten the entire surface. The Flora of this region is widely different from anything which we have met with at lower levels, and bears its own peculiar physiognomy. We
have here none of those monotonous masses of foliage, unrelieved by the colour of blossoms, which Dr. Hooker speaks of as characterising the vegetation of the Bay of Islands. We tread upon a short dense alpine grass, which clothes those portions of the surface, that are not occupied either by bare masses of rock or slopes of gravel. We have but few shrubs about us, and of a different character from those we left beneath; and the ground is gay with a great profusion of blossoms.
Large and handsome Ranunculuses spread out their glossy yellow petals to the sun. Different varieties of Gentian show their spikes of whitish flowers. The Wahlenbergia saxicola recalls the Harebell of our native woods. The quaint-looking Craspedia exhibits its ball of blossoms on the top of a tall and slender stem; and the silvery petals of the Raoulia are seen studded like stars over the surface of compact masses of vegetation that might be taken at the first glance for moss. But the characteristic plant of this zone is the different varieties of Celmisia. The number of these is immense; and as they all carry conspicuous daisy-like flowers, from the Celmisia coriacea, the blossom of which is as large as a five-shilling-piece, down to the slender Celmisia gracilenta, the Alpine heighta, during the long days of summer, are really quite gay with colour.
In enumerating the blossoming plants of that zone, we must not forget the shrubs. There is the Hoheria, for instance, growing in the gullies, a most graceful shrub, carrying a great abundance of conspicuous drooping white flowers. There is the Gaultheria, the closest relative to our native heath, of anything that grows in the country. Various species of shrubby Senecios. The dwarf Carmichælias, with the large pea-shaped blossoms, lying close to the ground; the quaint-looking Ozothamnus with its glossy green tuberculated branches, and terminal yellow flowers; and chief of all, a great variety of most beautiful dwarf Veronicas, symmetrical in the extreme, bright in their foliage, some bearing spikes, others flat heads of blossoms, but all of them conspicuous and charming objects. Higher than most of the others are the different species of Thlaspi, plants of the Cruciferous order, some of them deliciously fragrant; and highest of all is that strange looking plant of the Composite family, the Haastia, which is seen where nothing else grows, on the bare slopes of gravel, looking like a large globular mass of white felt, not unfrequently mistaken for a stray sheep.
In addition to those I have mentioned, the botanical explorer of the Alpine regions will find, of course, a great number of other plants of interest, and doubtless some still new to science. I have said nothing of the Gnaphaliums, of the varieties of the Violet, the Epilobium, the Speargrass (Aciphylla), the Euphrasia, or the different species of Orchis, which are to be found on the mountains. But I trust I have said enough to satisfy the reader that the Alpine Botany of New Zealand possesses its own special characteristics, has a physiognomy entirely different from that of the sea levels, and offers to the lovers of natural objects a most interesting field of exploration.
I find it impossible to refer to the subject of the Alpine Botany of New Zealand, apart from the memory of the late Dr. Andrew Sinclair. In company with that gentleman, whose friendship it was my privilege to enjoy during several years, I ascended several of the mountain ranges of the Wairau, and Upper Awatere, in search of Alpine novelties. It
was impossible to have a pleasanter companion; and no one could be more enthusiastic in the cultivation of Natural Science, or bring to the task a mind better stored with all the requisite knowledge. Seated round the camp fire at night, his extensive and minute acquaintance with a wide range of subjects; his knowledge of art and science; and his experience, both of men and things, derived from enlightened observation in many countries, combined with a cheerful temper, a large fund of anecdote, and a genial philosophy, to render his conversation most entertaining and instructive. While he lived he was one of the chief contributors to our knowledge of the botany of the country. What he did in this way, he accomplished chiefly during intervals of leisure snatched from the duties of a responsible office. With his time entirely at his disposal, as it latterly was, and the whole energies of his mind given to the task, a great deal more might have been looked for from his researches; and an irreparable calamity befell the cause of science in this colony, when Dr. Sinclair, then engaged in exploring the botany of the central portions of this island, lost his life in the Rangitata river.
Regarded as a whole, I should say, that the vegetation of the Middle Island was less luxuriant than that of the North. In the former, we miss, altogether, some of the most handsome and striking plants, which are to be met with in the latter, more particularly in its northern portions. That species of Metrosideros, for instance, called by the natives the Pohutukana, so beautiful an object in the middle of summer, bending over the salt waters of some sheltered harbour, and gorgeous with its bundles of crimson filaments, is not to be met with in the South. The noble Kauri, one of the stateliest, and commercially the most valuable of the New Zealand forest trees, is not found to the south of Mercury Bay. The Puriri (Vitex littoralis), wider in its range, and abundant about Taranaki, I have never met with on the south side of Cook's Straits. Charmed with its rich green foliage, and the beauty alike of its pink blossom, and cherry-like fruit, I have carried with me young plants, and endeavoured to naturalize it in my shrubberies at Nelson, but could not succeed, for the frosts of our winter nights proved fatal to its delicate organisation. Another familiar form, which one misses in the south is the shrubby Pomaderris, which clothes the ground so abundantly in the neighbourhood of Auckland and elsewhere. But, if the Middle Island be less abundantly furnished with trees and shrubs, than the North, it possesses in its wide extent of pasture, and in the abundance of grasses which clothe its eastern plains, and the downs and hilly slopes of its interior, a more than ample compensation. For these pastures are a source of great wealth to it. They furnish food for multitudes of cattle, and several millions of sheep; and they are probably not yet stocked to more than one-third of their capability.
In an economic point of view, the chief trees of the Middle Island, are the Red and White Pine, respectively called by the Maoris: the former the Mai or Matai (Podocarpus spicata),* the latter the Kahikatea (Podocarpus dacrydiodes). These trees furnish the timber which is chiefly used in the framework of houses. The Mai furnishes the more valuable
[Footnote] * Black Rue of Otago, Hook., f.; Miro, Black Rue or Black Pine in Otago, Hector; Miro, often confounded with Black Pine, Balfour; Mataii, Colenso,—Mai or Matai (Taylor).—Ed.
wood of the two, harder, more durable, and more ornamental; and it is accordingly used in those parts of the structure, where durability and strength are chiefly required, as in wall plates and joists. The White Pine yields a softer wood, easily worked, and of great utility for inner work, and situations in which it is not exposed to damp. It is asserted, and I believe correctly, that this timber is much more durable, and in every respect more valuable, in the Middle Island, than in the North, owing in all probability to the difference of climate. For doors and window sashes, the wood that is commonly used is that of the Totara (Podocarpus Totara). This is an exceedingly valuable timber. In appearance it is somewhat like cedar. It works with equal freedom, and according to the testimony of the Maoris, and the experience of the settlers, it resists the evil effects of damp, better than any other timber with which we are acquainted. Where abundant and easily obtained, it is preferred for every part of a wooden house, with the exception of those portions in which strength and toughness are the qualities chiefly sought for: for the Totara is rather a brittle wood. In the older trees, large warty excrescences are frequently met with, which when cut into, have a highly variegated and mottled appearance. These are in great request among furniture makers, the wood being very much admired. Not only is the Totara sought for by the sawyer to be cut into boards and scantling, but the men who split fencing for agricultural purposes, prefer it to every other wood. There is no other timber in New Zealand, which rends before the wedge with such facility and truth; and no description of timber stands so well in the ground as the heart of Totara. In consequence of its splitting properties, it is the timber out of which all the best and most durable roofing shingles are made. By the Maoris, the Totara has always been recognised as one of the most useful of the forest trees. It is of this tree that their largest canoes are made; the tree felled in the forest, it may be at a very considerable distance from the beach, and when hollowed out, dragged down into what the penny-a-liner calls “its native element.” I have been informed that the ownership of some of the largest trees, is known and recognised, years before they are ever made use of; and I have had Totara trees pointed out to me, which while yet comparatively young, have been subjected to an operation, which had for its object the lightening of the subsequent labour of hollowing them out. This operation consists in taking off the bark and a portion of the wood from one side of the tree, to a height equivalent to the projected length of the canoe. As the tree grows after this operation, the bark and young wood swell up on either side of the wound, so that when the tree is ultimately cut down, it presents a longitudinal depression, with a gunwale on either side formed by nature. One cannot but admire the ingenuity thus shown by savages, provided with no better tools than stone hatchets, in taking advantage of the operation of nature to lighten their work.
The Rimu (Dacrydium cupressinum) yields a very useful timber, strong and handsome; but unless thoroughly seasoned, much given to shrinking and warping. Always of a rich brown, the fibre of this wood sometimes approaches the colour of mahogany, and is beautifully veined. It is thus much in request among furniture makers, and in consequence of its strength and toughness, is preferred by some of them, to every other New Zealand timber. A considerable variety of handsomely grained and
showy woods for cabinet makers' purposes, is obtained from many of the smaller trees of our forests. The Titoki (Alectryon excelsum), the Akeake (Dodonœa viscosa), the Ngaio (Myoporum lœtum), and above all the Rewa Rewa (Knightia excelsa), yield woods, out of which some very beautiful pieces of furniture have been made. In the hands, for instance, of Mr. Seuffert of Auckland, these woods, worked up with others, have contributed to the construction of tables, cabinets, work boxes and other similar articles, which for general richness of appearance, cannot be surpassed anywhere.
The Rata (Metrosideros lucida) is not very common in the Middle Island, but occurring, as it does, in several places, in tolerable abundance, it must not be passed over in any enumeration of the economical woods of the country. The timber it yields is very hard, heavy and tough, and is prized by wheelwrights and manufacturers of agricultural implements. To similar purposes is applied the timber of the Maire (Eugenia Maire); where strength and durability are required, lightness being a secondary object, this timber is superior to any other.
The various species of Fagus, which have been described, as the characteristic tree of the Island, are hardly ever cut into boards and scantling. The timber is excessively tough and hard to cut, to such an extent as to necessitate the repeated sharpening of the saws. A very intelligent and well-educated owner of a saw-mill, informed me, that this was so much the case, that he had to come to the conclusion that the juices of the wood contained some free acid, which acted upon the iron; a supposition by no means extravagant or improbable. Owing to this circumstance the timber of the Fagus is not so commonly seen as its quality might warrant. The wood of that most remarkable work, the bridge over the Wai-au-ua or Dillon river, in the Amuri, in the Province of Nelson, is from that variety of Fagus termed emphatically by the colonists the Black-Birch, a tree with a sooty rough stem, and minute heart-shaped leaves, growing at low levels. Mr. Handyside, the gentleman who superintended the erection of the bridge, and to whom the greatest credit is due for the manner in which he carried out a work requiring very considerable engineering skill, and great ingenuity and courage, assured me, that as regarded strength, toughness, and apparent durability, he could desire no better wood. It was subject, however, to the great drawbacks of rending in the sun, and warping. By more careful drying, and selection of the proper season for felling the trees (a point hardly ever attended to in this country), it is possible that these objections might be obviated; and if so, we have in the country a boundless supply of a timber admirably suited to purposes of the greatest utility.
Although not much operated on by the sawyer, the different varieties of Fagus split readily enough before the wedge, and a great quantity of fencing materials is constantly being obtained in this manner. The posts, if they contain a fair proportion of heart-wood, are found to last many years in the ground, and the rails are durable and tough. The city of Nelson is now almost entirely dependent for its supply of firewood upon the beech forests, which clothe the mountain range to the eastward of the sunny nook in which it nestles. The timber is cut into convenient lengths, for loading, in the forest, and is then run down by the force of gravitation, upon the rails of the Dun Mountain railway.
In the southern portions of this island, a tree which is but sparingly met with in the north, occurs much more abundantly, attains much larger dimensions, and is conspicuous for its economical applications. I refer to the Kowhai, or as it is called in the south the Gowhai (Edwardsia). The southern settlers assure me, that for posts and rails, and a great variety of useful purposes, no timber can compare with that of the Kowhai, for strength, toughness, and durability.
I shall not be expected, in an essay of this sort, to present an elaborate or detailed account of all the useful purposes to which various members of the indigenous Flora of New Zealand are applied; and must, of necessity, omit the mention of various trees which yield timbers of more or less value. It may be sufficient to say, that in the article of timber, New Zealand has been richly endowed by nature. For there are few purposes, to which timber is applied, that may not be accomplished by having recourse to the indigenous trees of the country. And it must not be forgotten that in most European countries, the timber which is operated on by the carpenter, shipwright, or furniture maker, is either grown in the country, the produce of exotic species naturalized, or else, as to take for instance, the case of the Teak and Mahogany, is directly imported from foreign countries.
Of the other substances, useful to man, which the vegetable kingdom yields, comparatively little is known. The gum of the Kauri (Dammara australis) is exported from the northern ports of the North Island, in considerable quantities; and its collection furnishes employment to a considerable number of Maoris. Of the gums, or extracts, yielded by the trees of this island, hardly anything is known, for they have not, as yet, been the object of any direct observation or experiment.
In plants yielding fibre, the country appears to be unusually rich. There is the well known Phormium tenax, which though not yet utilised as an article of export, chiefly, in all probability, in consequence of the very high remuneration of labour, that has hitherto prevailed, is nevertheless daily applied, in its crude state, to an endless variety of useful purposes, both by the Maoris and the settlers. There is the Ti of the Maoris (Cordyline), the fibre of which is as strong as that of the Phormium, while the leaf, when used green, is considerably tougher and more lasting. On account of these qualities, it is the substance used by the natives in the construction of the sandals, which they extemporise upon a journey: and various species of the natural order of the Malvaceæ, the Plagianthus, and the Hoheria, termed by the colonists ribbon-wood, yield barks admitting of being torn into strips of great tenacity, and admitting probably of useful applications in the arts. While upon this subject, I may mention, that when in the Province of Otago in the year 1844, I saw excellent strong fishing lines, which were made of the epidermis which clothes the under surface of the leaf of the Celmisia Coriacea, twisted up into a string: and I saw at the same time another application of the same material, in the shape of an excellent pair of soft mocassins or leggings, of native manufacture, which were made out of a cloth formed by using the aforesaid string, as a yarn, and rudely weaving it. The leggings had very much the feel and consistence of soft buff leather.
I hardly consider it necessary to apologise for mentioning this ccumstance, as I am sure most people will agree with me, that it is desir-
able to place on record those little incidents of native habits and resources, which otherwise, owing to the great changes that have taken place in the Maoris within a few years, would soon be altogether forgotten.
Of the native grasses of New Zealand, several are considered by the flockowners, to possess high nutritive powers. But it is universally remarked that they are thin upon the ground. The explanation of this fact appears to me, to lie in the circumstance, that the number of species is very small. In some of the Alpine regions, especially, the grasses appear to grow luxuriantly, and yet they are only met with in tufts, with intervening patches of bare ground. Where this is the case, it will generally be found, that the species over a given area are not above two or three in number; and the explanation is to be found in the general law of vegetable physiology, which prescribes change and rotation, as a necessary condition of the healthy existence of most plants.
But whatever may be thought of the existing Flora of New Zealand, in a utilitarian point of view, there is no doubt, that it is destined to undergo a very great amount of change. Already, in the gardens of the New Zealand settlers, the fruits and vegetables of Great Britain prosper and bear abundantly, and in addition to these the fruits of still warmer countries. But I will not enter upon this subject, understanding that my friend Mr. Ludlam, of Wellington, has promised to write an account of his experience in the acclimatisation of exotics; and every one who has seen his garden, and the wonderful collection of plants which it contains, drawn from all quarters of the globe, will admit that no one is in a better position to write with authority on this subject.
What has taken place with regard to the gardens of the country, may well take place with regard to its meadows, hill sides, and forests. There are many noble specimens of the vegetable world peculiar to New Zealand, and deserving of the utmost care. But there are also deficiencies which may be filled up by judicious introductions, and for this operation, the mild and equable climate of the colony is particularly favorable. There is no reason whatever why there should not be seen growing together in one and the same wood, in New Zealand, its own peculiar evergreen Conifers, contrasted with the deciduous trees of our native country, the pines of Europe and Asia, the Eucalypti and Acaciæ of New Holland, the Proteceæ of South Africa, and other trees and shrubs from all but strictly tropical latitudes.
And so with regard to its pastures. The progress of settlement is daily introducing not only English meadow grasses, but grasses from other countries, and other useful forage plants. So far as present experience goes, perfect success follows upon all but the poorest and dryest soils; and the consequence is, that the resources of the colony in the production of animal food and wool, are being largely increased. The process has but just commenced: half a century hence, when these operations have had time to develope their results, the Middle Island of New Zealand will present a richer and more varied appearance.
Never having had an opportunity of botanizing in the Provinces of Canterbury or Otago, I have felt unable to meet that portion of the commissioners' request, which embraces a comparative view of the Floras of the different Provinces of the Middle Island. Under these circumstances I considered myself extremely fortunate in persuading my friend Mr.
Travers, lately of Christchurch, who is well known to all students of New Zealand botany, as one of its most zealous and active promoters, to place at my disposal, the result of his observations in this direction. Mr. Travers has botanized both in Nelson and Canterbury; and to his explorations among the mountains of both Provinces the scientific world is indebted for the discovery of some very beautiful and remarkable novelties. I cannot do better than append to this Essay of mine the letter which he has kindly written me on the subject.
I forward also an account which I have received from Dr. Hector, of the most striking features of the Flora of the Province of Otago, more especially having reference to the grouping of plants in certain zones, shown to be dependent on climatic conditions. These, in their turn, dependent upon altitude above the sea level, and the position and arrangement of the mountain masses, as affecting, above all, the amount of humidity in the atmosphere. I am sure that this communication will be read with great interest. The ground it enters on has been hitherto untrodden; and the well merited reputation of the author not only as a distinguished Geologist, but an acute and accurate observer in every department of Natural Science, must give to his remarks a more than ordinary interest, and be a guarantee for their scientific accuracy.