Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
Volume 1, 1868
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Par. 6. Note, a.—Hoheria populnea: the Botanist Allan Cunningham, (who first visited this North Island of New Zealand in 1826, and who created this genus,) was an accurate and enthusiastic observer of Nature; he thus characteristically and truly notices the beauty of this tree, in drawing up its generic character, (published in 1836,) —“Arbuscula, spectabilis, sempervirens et maxime ornata in sylvis naturalibus iis.”— Ann. Nat. Hist., vol. iii. p. 319.

Par. 8. Note, b. I had also drawn a third division, or classification, of many of the plants of the North Island, according to its geognostic formation; but I have been obliged to abandon it, chiefly through want of space. No doubt, hereafter, it will be both interesting and useful to show the geognostic habitats of the various species,— whether on Clay or Alluvial Soils,—on Limestone, Sandstone (Palæozoic,) or Volcanic formations, &c. I feel assured, that much more attention is absolutely needful to this branch of the science than has hitherto been given it, as a necessary step towards the solving of the great problem concerning the Distribution of Plants. I remember well (in 1845) being forcibly struck with seeing certain Bay-of-Islands plants, (e. g. Metrosideros scandens, Gaultheria antipoda, Cordyline stricta, Lindsæa linearis, Lycopodium volubile, &c.) on the clayey hills near Wellington.—Plants, which I had not before seen south of the Thames. I may also mention that, in 1844, Dr. Hooker published (in the “London Journal of Botany,” vol. III,) the names, &c., of a Collection of 123 Plants made in the neighbourhood of Wellington by a visitor, of which number only 2, or perhaps 3, were not identical with the Bay of Islands plants. Hence arose a suspicion, that the North Island of New Zealand possessed but few species, seeing that the same plants were collected in latitudes so far apart. But the fact is, that the same geologic features obtain on those hills, as at the Bay of Islands, although but rarely intermediate. And many of those species (as far as I know,) are not elsewhere found between 36° South and Cook's Straits.

Par. 12. (i.) Note, c. The Pohutukawa (Metrosideros tomentosa) is truly a littoral plant; and yet (in 1841,) I detected it growing on the Sandstone rocks of the high inland lake Waikare, about 70 miles from the sea; and I find, from Dieffenbach, (vol. i. p. 384,) that he too had observed it growing on the trachytic cliffs of the inland lake Tarawera, (1075 feet alt., apud Hochstetter) at about the same distance from the sea.

Par. 12. (ii.) Note, d. The Karaka (Corynocarpus lævigata) is naturally a coast plant; but it is sometimes found growing in the interior, in clumps or singly,—particularly in the more Northern parts, and on the shores of lake Taupo,—where it has been planted as a fruit-bearing tree by the New-Zealanders.

Par. 13. (iii.) Note, e. “Fagus fusca has not been seen north of Poverty Bay.” In 1839, however, I visited a small isolated wood of Fagus at the head of Whangarei Bay, but failed in getting any fruiting specimens. That plant, from its vernation, is believed, by the writer, to be a different species, or, at all events, a marked variety. (Vide, “London Journal of Botany,” vol. III., p. 20.,) The same tree grows also near Kaitaia Mission Station, North of 350 South. By the Northern Natives, it is called Hutu.

Par. 16. Note, f, Dr. Sparmann seems scarcely to have been done justice to; no New Zealand plant bears his name. G. Forster, however, in his “Voyage round the World, (vol. i. p. 67, 4to. ed., speaking of his father and himself, while collecting specimens at the Cape, on their voyage out with Captain Cook,) says—“Our abundant harvest gave us the greatest apprehensions that with all our efforts, we alone would be unequal to the task of collecting, describing, drawing, and preserving (all at the same time) such multitudes of species, in countries where every one we gathered would in all probability be a nondescript. It was therefore of the utmost importance, if we meant not to neglect any branch of natural knowledge, to endeavour to find an assistant well qualified to go hand and hand with us in our undertakings. We were fortunate enough

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to meet with a man of science, Dr. Sparmann, at this place; who after studying under the father of Botany, the great Sir Charles Linne, had made a voyage to China, and another to the Cape, in pursuit of knowledge. The idea of gathering the treasures of nature in countries hitherto unknown to Europe, filled his mind so entirely, that he immediately engaged to accompany us on our circumnavigation; in the course of which I am proud to say, we have found him an enthusiast in his science, well versed in medical knowledge, and endowed with a heart capable of the warmest feelings, and worthy of a philosopher.” And, the father, J. R. Forster, in the preface to his classic “Genera Plantarum,” (among much laudatory language) also says—“Sparmannus plantas describebat, Filius easdem delineabat.—Verum dum Sparmannus plantas accuratius examinaret, filius et ego sæpe in consilium vocati in commune consulebamus, &c.” It is hoped, that future Botanical describers and nomenclators of New Zealand plants will remember this. No man can read G. Forster's “Voyage,” or the “Observations” and Botanical works published by his father, J. R. Forster, without perceiving how much they (we?) were indebted to Dr Sparmann; who also did so much at the Cape for the advancement of Natural Science. His memory has been justly commemorated by Thunberg, in the South-African genus, Sparmannia,—a genus very closely allied to the New Zealand Entelea.

Par. 19. Note, g. “Phormium is only found in New Zealand and Norfolk Island.” Since writing the above I have seen the following in an Auckland paper, (New Zealander, Sept. 2, 1864)—“Australian Phormium Tenax.—The Pastoral Times of the 13th inst. says,—Large quantities of this plant have been found growing in the mallee scrub on the Lachlan plains. The flax is three or four feet high, and from one inch to two broad. It is stronger in its fibres than the New Zealand flax, and would seem to be exempt from the oily (sic) properties which render the New Zealand flax so difficult to convert into useful purposes. It is believed that by the aid of the small steamers running up our rivers, we shall be enabled to collect vast quantities of the article. Some specimens have already been forwarded to Melbourne for the purpose of being tested.” I have great doubts, however, of its being Botanically correct.

Par. 23. (iii.) Note, h. This chewing of the fresh gum resin of the Kauri pine by the New Zealanders, explains the error made by Forster, (from Crozet, Voyage de M. Marion) who had named the Mangrove (Avicennia officinalis, L.) A. resinifera; believing, that the gum chewed by the Natives had been obtained from that tree! Forster says, “Gummi ex hac arbore exsudans forte idem est, quo barbari Novæ Zelandiæ homines vescuntur, ut patet e diaris navarchi gallici Crozet.” This error has been since repeatedly printed; and, strange to say, more recently by Lindley (who even improves upon it) in his noble “Vegetable Kingdom,” where (p. 665,) speaking of the Mangrove, he says,—“It exudes a kind of green aromatic resin, which furnishes a miserable food to the barbarous natives of New Zealand.” (!)

Par. 30, (i.) Note, i. Such is the demand for sarsaparilla, and the limited area where it grows, that (as is well known,) it is greatly adulterated. The true Sarsaparilla is obtained from Smilax Sarsaparilla, but several distinct species are used, known in commerce as producing the Peruvian, Brazilian, Lisbon, and Jamaica Sarsaparillas,—and, perhaps, really but little inferior. Another kind, Smilax glycyphylla, has also of late years been introduced into medical use from New Holland; while the roots of 3 sedges, (Carex arenaria, hirta, and intermedia,) are collected to make German Sarsaparilla! The New Zealand plant (Rhipogonum parviflorum,) is not only very nearly allied to the genus Smilax, but was by its first discoverers, Banks and Solander, and subsequently by Forster, classed under that genus—from which it only slightly differs. From its having been successfully (privately) used in New Zealand, and from its natural affinity, it is confidently hoped, it will prove a useful and valuable article of export; at all events, a far better substitute for the true Sarsaparilla than the 3 German Carices.

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[The section below cannot be correctly rendered as it contains complex formatting. See the image of the page for a more accurate rendering.]

A Table Shewing the relative strength, weight, &c., of some of the most useful woods indigenous to the North Island of New Zealand.*
Name of Plant, or Wood. Stiffness. Strength. Toughness. Weight per cubic foot. Specific Gravity
Botanical Name. Maori Name.
lbs. oz.
Dammara australis Kauri 90 99 102 25 3 .403
" " (best specimen) 26 13 .429
Podocarpus Totara Totara 49 61 57 39 5 .629
Podocarpus dacrydioides Kahikatea 54 68 85 31 1 .497
Dacrydium cupressinum Rimu 90 81 95 34 6 .560
Podocarpus spicata Mataii 73 67 61
Podocarpus ferruginea Miro 48 4 .772
Phyllocladus trichomanoides Tanekaha 98 103 134 36 7 .583
Vitex littoralis Puriri 100 100 100 52 5 .837
Leptospermum scoparium Manuka 57 9 .921
Metrosideros tomentosa Pohutukawa 126 109 94 52 2 .834
Metrosideros robusta Rata 89 103 138
Edwardsia grandiflora Kowhai 43 13 .701
Weinmannia racemosa Towai 43 6 .674
Weinmannia sylvicola Tawhero 93 96 99
Dysoxylum spectabile Kohekohe 81 72 60
Tetranthera calicaris Tangeao 89 119 160
Knightia excelsa Rewarewa 54 60 85 53 15 .683
Olea Cunninghamii Maire raunui 34 5 .549
Nesodaphne Tawa Tawa 35 4 .564
Nesodaphne Tarairi Taraire 35 12 .572
Dodonæa viscosa Ake 63 3 1.011
Myrsine australis Tipau 78 92 103

Note.—The first 3 columns of figures are from the “Church Almanac” for 1847; in which Vitex littoralis was made the standard of comparison.—The last 2 columns are from W. W. Saunders's Catalogue, in “Report of Juries,” Exhibition, 1851.

[Footnote] * See, “The Results of a Series of Experiments on the Strength of New Zealand and other Colonial Woods; by James M. Balfour, C.E.; Appendix C., Jurors' Reports of the New Zealand Exhibition, 1865.”

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[The section below cannot be correctly rendered as it contains complex formatting. See the image of the page for a more accurate rendering.]

A Comparative Table of Weight and Specific Gravity.
Name of Wood. Whight Per Cubic Foot. Specific Gravity. Remarks.
lbs. oz.
English Oak 40     14 .654 Epping.
  Do. 39     0 .625 Sussex.
  Do. 40     10 .714 Wandsworth.
American Oak 42     9 .681
English Beech 41     2 .658 From Oxfordshire.
Do. 27     6 .488 From Epping.
Riga Fir 37     10 .602
Malabar Teak 37     14 .606
Ceylon Teak 47     3 .755

P.S.—The writer of this Essay wishes to return his best thanks to those few gentlemen who so kindly and promptly responded to his appeal to them. He would most particularly thank His Honor the Superintendent of Auckland (Robert Graham, Esq.,) and the Chief Provincial Surveyor of that Province, (C. Heaphy, Esq.); also the gentlemen composing the Chamber of Commerce at Wellington. To Mr. Heaphy he is largely indebted for much useful information in Colonial Œconomic Botany, as well as for that portion of the First Table containing the Weight and Specific Gravity of Woods, and the whole of the last Table herein given.


Napier, New Zealand, October 26, 1864.