Art. XX.—On Epacris Purpurascens, Br., in New Zealand; with remarks on Epacris Pauciflora, A Rich.
[Read before the Auckland Institute, October 18, 1869.]
This attractive plant is stated, in the supplementary portion of the “Flora Novæ Zelandiæ,” to have been seen by the late Dr. Sinclair and Colonel Bolton, at Papakura, where I believe it was originally discovered by Mr.
Runciman, about sixteen years ago. It is singular that until last year the precise knowledge of the locality was lost to botanists; neither has the plant been discovered elsewhere in the colony.
Dr. Hooker entertained doubts as to its being indigenous, founded chiefly on its supposed extreme rarity here, compared with its abundance in some parts of Australia, where it is a common plant. Leucopogon Richei, Br., affords a similar instance, of a common Australian plant being confined to a small area in these islands. Our plant, however, must be considered as local, rather than rare, since it is found in abundance over several miles of low Tea-tree ground, near Papkura, usually occurring in large isolated patches; sometimes, when sheltered by a large Tea-tree, it attains a stature of nine feet, and is much branched, but more commonly it is from two to four feet high, with long straight shoots, abundantly clothed with attractive rose-coloured, or white flowers.
It is readily distinguished from the other species of Epacris, found in New Zealand, by its constantly recurved, pungent, coriaceous leaves, with long subulate points, the large size of its flowers, and the linear-lanceolate sepals. Small sparsely-branched specimens of Epacris pauciflora, with pungent leaves, have been erroneously referred to this species, by New Zealand botanists, and it has been said that E. purpurascens, E. pauciflora, and E. Sinclairii, are but forms of the same plant. The differences between E. purpurascens and E. pauciflora, are, however, far too wide to admit of their being united (if New Zealand forms alone are to be considered, at least); although it will be difficult to maintain E. Sinclairii as a species apart from E. pauciflora. E. pauciflora occurs on open Tea-tree land, and occasionally amongst other shrubs, up to 2000 feet of altitude, at various places between the North Cape and Nelson, but can hardly be considered a common plant. Flowering specimens may be seen a few inches in height, although from four to six feet is a common height, and the plant sometimes forms a large, much-branched, twiggy shrub, thirteen feet high. In the young state, the leaves are sometimes very broad, highly developed, pungent, and more or less recurved, but these characteristics disappear as the plant grows larger. A striking variety found near the North Cape, is sparingly, or not at all branched, with the leaves approaching those of E. purpurascens, but always green, never brown; it produces flowers freely, near the tips of the long straight branches; but the flowers are strictly those of the typical form, and the plant becomes gradually branched and twiggy with age, at the same time developing leaves of the ordinary type.