3. “Some Remarks on Dr. Curl's ‘Notes on Grasses and Fodder Plants, suitable for Introduction to New Zealand,”’ by Henry Blundell.
The author paid a high compliment to Dr. Curl for his work. He thought that though rye and clover were often selected as the best known grasses for the cultivator, the pasture grown from them is mixed with other grasses, owing to the difficulty of getting pure seed. Several grasses thus get root in the ground, and in course of time the pasture, though nominally of one or two varieties, is actually composed of many. The author thinks a variety of food for cattle is most beneficial, if not essential, and says the effect of their food is especially noticeable in dairy produce. In this country Phormium has a great influence in the flavour of milk, and is largely chewed by cattle, especially the lower end of the leaf. The author has known acres of swamp land to be cleared of Phormium by cattle tearing off the leaves. He says “there is one exotic plant which I think is deserving of more than the passing notice it receives at Dr. Curl's hands in his paper published in Vol. IX. of the Transactions. I allude to the burnet, which grows luxuriantly in swampy soil, and thrives well in soil of a much drier description. Some of it was sown at the rear of the homestead, on a run where it throve wonderfully, but never spread, for the simple reason that the sheep never gave it the chance, for though naturally wild and timid they would brave a good deal to get a taste of the
burnet. Having grown some in a garden, I was anxious to introduce it among the native grasses in a low-lying paddock, which had never been ploughed, and was never likely to be, on account of the floods which periodically submerged it, and with that object I transplanted a few roots to different spots, and also sowed some of the seed in small patches, which were carefully marked. The roots struck readily, and the seed soon sprang up, and I congratulated myself on the success attending the experiment; but I failed of my object in substituting burnet for inferior plants through the sheep feeding it down close to the ground so that it could not seed. The author concludes with a suggestion to the Society to publish a pamphlet on such exotic grasses as have been proved suitable for specified soils and climates.
Mr. Travers remarked that Mr. Blundell could get a great deal of the information he mentioned as to grasses, etc., from the catalogues published in England. What we wanted here was the feeding value of grasses and character of soil. As to the disappearance of flax, he considered that the opening up of the swamps where it grows, by cattle, and the introduction of other plants, did more to make it disappear than merely the cattle eating it. It was, no doubt, eaten for the pleasant bitter it contained.
Mr. Kirk remarked that some confusion existed with regard to the burnet; there are two plants well known to agriculturists under the names of the greater and the lesser burnet respectively. The former flourishes best in cool and rather moist soils, the latter in those of a dry character; and he had observed the latter in a naturalized condition near Castle-rock and in other parts of the colony. Both plants are of great value. He considered the consolidation of the surface of swampy ground by cattle, and the consequent establishment of exotic weeds, to be more destructive to Phormium and other swamp plants than the direct injury caused by cattle in feeding, etc. He regretted that he could not agree with the author in his estimate of the value of Dr. Curl's writings. His statements were for the most part wanting in the necessary data for testing their value. He trusted Dr. Curl would furnish the results of the analysis to which he referred, with particulars as to the nature of soil in which the grasses were growing, course of culture, and quantity of food furnished by each, in precise terms, at some future time.
Dr. Newman agreed with Mr. Kirk that the information contained in Dr. Curl's papers on these subjects was scarcely full or complete enough to be of much practical value.
Mr. Blundell, in reply, said he did not think it necessary for him to defend Dr. Curl He still thought he was right in what he said about the disappearance of the Phormium.
4. “Notes on the Botany of Waiheke, Rangitoto, and other Islands in the Hauraki Gulf,” by T. Kirk, F.L.S. (Transactions, p. 444.)
Mr. Travers said that it would be impossible not to remark the peculiar vegetation of Rangitoto as described by Mr. Kirk. The cause of the luxuriance of growth is no doubt due to the moisture of the climate.
Mr. Travers drew attention to a paper by Professor Houghton, of Dublin, on “Physical Geology,” lately published in Nature, which bore out certain remarks made in a paper on the same subject written by him (Mr. Travers) last year, and published in Vol. X. of the Transactions.