Art. LXIV.—Notice of a new Species of Pomaderris (P. tainui.)
[Read before the Welington Philosophical Society, 11th January, 1879.]
The tree which I have to introduce to the Society was discovered during my recent visit to the Mokau district, under circumstances of some interest beyond the mere botanical importance of a new addition to the flora of the country. It is a very local plant, being confined to about an acre of ground on a spur of the low sandy hills that extend along the coast, between the Mokau and the Mohakatina rivers.
The peculiar habit of the tree first attracted my attention, having a resemblance to a clump of apple trees, so that at first glance I thought it to be an old orchard or cultivation. I afterwards was much interested in hearing from the natives that a peculiar tree was growing on the spot where their ancestors first camped when they abandoned the Tainui canoe, in which they came from Hawaiki, and that this tree had sprung from the rollers or skids and the green boughs that were brought as flooring to the great canoe. On my doubting this, they offered to take me to the place, and if I could not recognise the tree as being found elsewhere in New Zealand, they would consider it as proof that the tradition was correct.
To my surprise they took me to the clump of trees I had previously observed, and as it is certainly quite distinct from any plant hitherto described from New Zealand, the tradition receives a certain amount of confirmation; and I need hardly point out that if it were true, and we could hereafter determine the original habitat of this tree, it might give us a clue to the whereabouts of the mythical Hawaiki, or the place whence the Maori originally migrated to New Zealand.
The following description of this plant indicates it to be closely allied to Pomaderris apetala, Labill., which is a native of Australia and Tasmania; but as it differs in its growing to a much larger size—that species being a mere shrub like the kumera-hau (P. elliptica) of New Zealand, whereas the tree now described grows to a height of 20 feet, with large stems 5 or 6 inches in diameter—I have thought it better to distinguish it by a specific name, and have adopted that by which it is known to the Maoris.
Pomaderris tainui, n. s.
A small shrubby tree, 20 feet high, with numerous irregular branches; smooth brownish-grey bark; young branches and under side of leaves covered with white stellate tomentum; leaves 2 to 3 inches long, elliptic-oblong, obtuse at both ends, irregularly crenulate, glabrous and dark green on the upper surface, with distant stellate bases on young leaves, principal veins very prominent, buff-coloured. Flowers small in open thyrsoid panicles, leafy at the base, buds nearly globular; calyx about 1 ¼ lines long with stellate leaves, the tube being very short; petals O; anthers tipped by a small gland; styles divided to the middle with club-shaped, almost capitate stigmas; capsule not seen.
Habitat: Sea Coast, south of Mokau River. In flower 5th Dec., 1878.