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Volume 5, 1872
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Art. XLIX.—Notes on Plants collected near Invercargill.

[Read before the Otago Institute, 29th October, 1872.]

Having promised Mr. Kirk that when time permitted I would send him a contribution to his herbarium from this province, I availed myself of a few unoccupied hours, during a visit to Invercargill in January of last year, to attempt a fulfilment of the promise. As the plants were for comparison with those of other localities, I concluded that the results of a searching examination of a narrow area would be more useful than desultory gatherings. I therefore collected every plant I could secure from about a square mile of tussock ground, between the Puni creek and the Main East road, about a mile out of the town. The vegetation proved to be very poor, and what struck me as very remarkable included very few introduced plants, and those chiefly of three or four species. Even the universal white clover had not there made headway

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against the native vegetation, although cattle have been constantly wandering over the place ever since the first settlement of the district. Across the area examined I found the line of the old high road still quite plainly traceable, but even here the native plants held their own. Except in the neighbourhood of this track the surface had only been broken in one place, where a ditch had been formed. On the clay ridges thrown up on either side of this, that bright looking fern Pteris scaberula had established itself plentifully, but this was the only native plant that appeared to have been introduced as a consequence of the disturbance of the ground. The subsoil of the area is a not very stiff clay, through which, at a depth of from two to about ten feet, the prevailing gravel of the district could be reached. The ground is disposed in two terraces, that nearest to the creek being only a few feet lower than the other. So far as I could determine, there was absolutely no difference in vegetation between the terraces. The prevailing feature was snow-grass in huge tussocks, around the roots of which, hidden under the over-arching grass, the majority of the smaller plants obtainable were clustered. The immediate banks of the creek I did not explore so carefully as the tussock ground. Mr. Kirk has obliged me with the following list of the plants gathered:—

Native Plants.

  • Ranunculus sinclairii.

  • " plebeius?

  • Geranium microphyllum.

  • Acæna sanguisorbæ.

  • " novæ-zealandiæ.

  • Haloragis micrantha.

  • Myrtus pedunculata.

  • Epilobium alsinoides.

  • " pallidiflorum

  • Galium tenuicaule.

  • Olearia virgata, var.

  • Celmisia longifolia

  • Lagenophora forsteri.

  • " petiolata.

  • Craspedia fimbriata.

  • Cassinia fulvida.

  • Gnaphalium filicaule.

  • " luteo-album.

  • " involucratum.

  • Microseris forsteri.

  • Taraxacum dens-leonis.

  • Wahlenbergia gracilis.

  • " saxicola.

  • Gaultheria—?

  • Plantago spathulata.

  • Scleranthus bifloros.

  • Prasophyllum colensoi.

  • Potamogeton polygonifolius.

  • Juncus effusus (communis of Meyer).

  • " planifolius.

  • " bufonius.

  • Luzula congesta?

  • Carex virgata.

  • " forsteri.

  • Eleocharis gracillima.

  • Hierochloe redolens.

  • Danthonia cunninghami.

  • " raoulii.

  • Deschampsia cæspitosa.

  • Trisetum antarcticum.

  • Poa breviglumis

  • Pteris scaberula.

  • Lomaria procera.

  • " alpina.

  • Campylopus appressifolius.

  • Polytrichum commune.

Introduced Plants.

  • Cerastium glomeratum.

  • Trifolium minus.

  • Prunella vulgaris.

  • Rumex acetosella.

  • Aira caryophyllea.

  • Holcus lanatus.

Mr. Kirk calls attention to the fact that of these plants the following are not mentioned either by Dr. Lindsay or Mr. Buchanan as occurring in this province, viz.:—

Haloragis micrantha.—This I found growing around the tussocks of snow-grass, and generally almost hidden by them.

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Eleocharis gracillima.—This species has recently been distinguished by Dr. Hooker from E. gracilis, or rather has been acknowledged as being a distinct plant, and not a mere variety of the latter. It is a small rush-like plant. The specimen I retained has unfortunately been lost.

Acœna novœ-zealandiœ, Kirk.—This species has been determined by Mr. Kirk since the publication of Mr. Buchanan's lists of Otago plants. It is defined in Mr. Kirk's “Descriptions of New Plants,” a paper read before the Auckland Institute two years ago (Trans. N.Z. Inst., Vol. III. p. 177).

Plantago spathulata.—Dr. Haast found this plant on terraces, and in the river bed in the Kowai valley. So far as I can recollect it is common where I found it, but I do not remember to have met with it elsewhere in Otago.

Potamogeton polygonifolius.—This plant is mentioned by Mr. Kirk in his “Notes on certain New Zealand Plants, not included in the ‘Handbook of the New Zealand Flora’,” (Trans. N.Z. Tnst., Vol. III. p. 163). He remarks that though it is abundant in Europe, he is not aware of its existence elsewhere, except in New Zealand. Since it has now been reported from each extremity of the islands, it will probably be found to be universally distributed.

On the subject of the paucity of introduced plants, Mr. Kirk says, “Your notes on the ability of native plants to hold their ground under certain conditions against introduced kinds, agree in the main with my own observations made on the pumiceous soils in the centre of this (the North) Island.” In connection with this subject, Mr. Kirk in a former letter directed my attention to some remarks by Mr. Travers, in his lecture on “Changes effected in the Natural Features of a New Country by the Introduction of Civilized Races” (Trans. N. Z. Inst., Vol. II., p. 312). Generalizing too hastily, I think, from a certain number of facts, striking in themselves, but not numerous enough nor observed under sufficiently varied circumstances to warrant his conclusion, Mr. Travers says, “such in effect is the activity with which introduced plants are doing their work, that I believe if every human being were at once removed from the islands for even a limited number of years, looking at the matter from a geological point of view, the introduced would succeed in displacing the indigenous fauna and flora.” Judging from the state of things which exists in the area from which this collection of plants is derived, an area typical of very considerable districts in this part of New Zealand, we may well doubt whether the indigenous vegetation would not in most cases be found able to hold its own against the strongest intruders from foreign climes, unless the latter should be favoured by fostering circumstances, such as accompany the agricultural occupation of the soil by a civilized race. It is at least fifteen years since the cattle of European settlers first began to wander amongst the tussocks amidst which I gathered these specimens of plants. The old road now abandoned, to which I have alluded, was in use for years, yet the most

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robust and tenacious of our introduced plants have not established themselves there. The few individuals which we find, appear there as intruders which do not flourish, but exist as it were by sufferance. They would probably die out altogether were it not that neighbouring cultivations serve as centres of propagation. As a matter of fact, the high road alone divides the area on which I collected from another which has for a long time been under cultivation and sown with English grasses, and even in the very midst of the former there existed at the time a paddock which had been twice ploughed, and was then under a crop of oats.