Art. XXX.—Botanical Notes.*
[Read before the Wellington Philosophical Society, 16th November, 1883.]
Pisonia umbellifera, Seeman.
(Ceodes umbellifera, Forst.)
(P. sinclairii, Hook. f.)
This plant is found in several localities north of Whangarei, both on the east and west coasts; also on the Taranga Islands, Arid Island, Little Barrier Island, and on the East Cape: in the last-named locality, possibly planted by the Maoris.
It attains its greatest luxuriance on the west coast, north of Hokianga, where it forms a tree; in other localities it forms a shrub, rarely more than 10 feet high,—usually from 4–7 feet. When growing entirely in the
[Footnote] * These notes accompanied specimens in illustration of art. xxviii.
shade, the leaves are often from 14–16 inches long, of a deep glossy green; but in situations of this kind it rarely developes flowers. In exposed situations the leaves are much torn by the wind.
The fruiting pericarp is remarkable for its viscidity, which is usually retained for a considerable period after the fruit is fully matured. This renders it difficult to press fruiting specimens for the herbarium, as they adhere to the drying papers with remarkable tenacity. It can be readily imagined that small birds tempted to feed on the seeds might easily become glued to a cluster of fruits.
Meryta sinclairii, Seem.
(Botryodendrum sinclairii, Hook. f.)
This rare plant was originally discovered by Mr. Colenso, who found a solitary specimen planted by the natives at the head of Whangururu Bay. Mr. William Mair with great trouble procured leaves from this plant, which he sent to the late Dr. Sinclair, who forwarded them to Kew, and the plant was described as Botryodendrum sinclairii from these leaves alone. The natives had strictly tapued the tree, and resented the removal of leaves to such an extent that the tree was cut down by them.
The first specimens observed by Europeans in a wild state were found by the writer on the Taranga Islands* in the early part of 1869. Only eight plants were found, and as it has not been discovered elsewhere it must be considered one of the rarest plants known.
Although at best but a small tree, rarely more than 20 feet high, and frequently much less, it produces by far the largest leaves of any New Zealand plant. Some of the leaves measured from the base of the petiole to the tip of the blade fully 30 inches by 10 in breadth, the petiole being from 8–12 inches in length. Notwithstanding the large size of the leaf, the blade is never torn by the wind, owing to the stout marginal nerve by which it is strengthened.
The plant is not in any way viscid, so that birds could not possibly become adherent either to the leaves or fruit. When the branches are wounded a peculiar resin is exuded, but not in large quantities.
The plant was introduced into Auckland gardens by means of cuttings which required considerable care and attention before they developed roots. Since then ripe seeds have been obtained, so that notwithstanding its extreme rarity the plant is not likely to be lost.
[Footnote] * See Trans. N.Z. Inst., ii., p. 100.