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Volume 6, 1873
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Art. XLI.—Notice of an Undescribed Species of Cordyline.

[Read before the Auckland Institute, 8th December, 1873.]

With the DracŒna indivisa discovered in Dusky Bay, by Forster, another form has hitherto been confused—the Toii of the North Island—a plant which, even from the scanty information we at present possess, appears to differ widely from the Cordyline indivisa of the Handbook, the description of which was chiefly drawn from the South Island specimens collected by Forster, and to which the North Island specimens, sent to Kew by Colenso, were referred by Dr. Hooker. In order to attract the attention of botanists to the North Island plant, I purpose offering a brief diagnosis drawn from the scanty material already collected, under the provisional name of Cordyline hookeri, in the hope of being thereby enabled to procure data for a complete description at some future time.

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Senecio Hectori. n.s.
nat. size.

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At the outset, however, it is certain that neither C. indivisa of Dusky Bay, nor C. hookeri of the North Island, exhibit uniformly simple stems, as stated in the Handbook; neither are the leaves uniformly contracted at the base, either in young specimens, or old. In these particulars both forms exhibit (so far as is known) much the same amount of variation as C. australis, C. banksii, or C. pumilio, and the same remark will apply, although possibly with less force, to the yellow or red colouration of the principal veins, a character upon which stress has been laid by writers.

Cordyline hookeri, n. s.

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Stem arboreous, simple or branched, 2–18 feet high, massive. Leaves thick, excessively coriaceous, 2–5 feet long, ensiform, glaucous beneath, usually much contracted immediately above the base, central vein not prominent. Panicle cylindrical, pendulous, 3 feet long or more, with immense bracts at the base 5 feet long, 4–5 inches wide, gradually decreasing in size until towards the middle of the panicle they become shorter than the branches. Branches very numerous, close set, imbricating, simple except at the base of the panicle, jointed with the rhachis. Flowers densely crowded, shortly pedicelled, 1/3 inch in diameter, bractlets scarcely longer than the pedicel, very white, globose, seeds black, angled.

Habitat—North Island, Ruahine Mountains, Colenso; Mount Egmont, Buchanan and others; Hauraki Gulf, lofty ranges between the Miranda Redoubt and Eastern Wairoa (young plants only), S. P. Smith. I have also been informed that the same plant occurs on high ranges between the Northern Wairoa and Whangarei.

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The only flowering example that has yet been available for examination is the fine cultivated specimen in Mr. Owen's grounds at Epsom, which flowered for the first time in November last (1872), when it was six years old. It was at once seen that it differed from the Dusky Bay plant in the small size of the individual flowers, which are not more than 1/3 inch in diameter; Forster's plant being described as having flowers from ¾ to 1 inch in diameter; and in the relative length of the bracteoles, which, in our plant, are scarcely longer than the pedicels. It does not appear, moreover, that Forster's plant possesses the immense bracts of this species, a character too prominent, if present, to have escaped the notice of so good an observer.

The dimensions of Mr. Owen's plant are: height of stem 11 ½ feet, circumference, at 2 feet from base, 1 foot 8 inches; leaves 4 ¼ feet long, width at base 8 inches, sharply contracted to 4 ½ inches, and gradually widening to 6 inches just above the middle of the leaf. Four offsets have been given off with leaves 3 feet long, or more. After flowering the stem divided so far as to form two crowns, the younger of which appears to be dying off. In mature leaves the central nerve is not prominent, but in young leaves it is sometimes

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of a faint red tinge with yellowish discolorations on each side; lateral veins distinct, but not prominent.

The large panicle was not simply drooping, but pendulous, the rhachis being sharply recurved, so that it grew downwards parallel with the trunk, with which the panicle was in close contact for the greater part of its length. It developed nearly 200 branches, and, on a low computation, must have borne fully 16,000 flowers.

Mr. Colenso has always contended for the specific distinctness of the North Island plant, and in this has been supported by Dr. Hector and Mr. Buchanan, the latter, I believe, being the only botanist who has had an opportunity of examining Forster's C. indivisa from Dusky Bay and the present plant from Mount Egmont in a living state, although unfortunately not in a flowering condition.

The New Zealand Cordylines comprise several dubious forms, respecting which fuller information is desirable. One of these exhibits a small, arboreous stem 2 inches or more in diameter, 2–5 feet high, narrow drooping leaves 4–5 feet long, and large, sparingly-branched, drooping panicles 5 feet long, with comparatively few flowers. A fine example of this elegant form was formerly to be seen near the Ponsonby Road, Auckland; and I believe a plant found by Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Robert Mair, at Whangarei, to be identical. Its affinities are evidently with C. pumilio. The form cultivated by the Upper Wanganui natives *—so far as an opinion can be formed from the foliage of young plants only—is closely related to C. australis, but I believe the flowers are unknown. The fine plant found on the Rimutaka Ranges—the “Rimutaka flax” of the settlers—combines to some extent the characters of C. banksii and C. hookeri. Another singular but elegant form, which appears intermediate between C. australis and C. banksii, occurs on the Kawau; lastly, a blue-flowered form has been discovered by Mr. Robert Mair at Whangarei, and by Dr. Hector in other localities, but I have been unable to obtain specimens.

C. hookeri is in general cultivation in Europe under the name of C. indivisa, but the true C. indivisa has not yet been brought under cultivation.

[Footnote] * Native name, Ti-tawhiti.—Ed.