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Volume 16, 1883
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Art. XXXVI.—Notes on Carmichælia, with Descriptions of new Species.

[Read before the Wellington Philosophical Society, 13th February. 1884.]


The genus Carmichælia comprises certain species which are tolerably constant in their vegetative characters, and can be identified in all states with little difficulty, but on the other hand it contains species of which the individuals exhibit an amount of variation scarcely surpassed by any genus in our variable Flora. The habit of the plant may be lax or compact; the branches and branchlets may be glabrous or more or less pubescent; they may be terete, plano-convex or much compressed, and when compressed may vary from one-twentieth to one-fourth of an inch in breadth; they may be leafless or foliaceous, while unifoliolate and pinnate leaves may be found on the same branch. The inflorescence may consist of two or three few-flowered fascicles, or of fascicles or short racemes crowded into false whorls, or of many-flowered lax racemes, and the pedicels may be glabrous, pubescent, or pilose.

The most constant characters are afforded by the fruit which varies widely in the different species. In the typical form of the pod dehiscence is effected by the separation of the valves from the placenta, leaving the latter as a framework (replum) carrying the seeds, but in some species the replum itself splits down the middle, one-half being attached to each valve; in others one valve becomes partially or completely separated from the replum which remains attached to the opposite valve. The replum varies considerably in the different species, being least developed in C. crassicaulis. Dehiscence usually commences from the base, but not invariably.

The form of the pod exhibits marked characters in the different species, and nearly always affords the safest characters for identification, however much the species may vary in its vegetative characteristics. With a few exceptions characters derived from the flowers are less satisfactory.

I do not propose to consider the causes of variation in Carmichælia beyond recording the fact that in C. odorata, C. pilosa, and C. flagelliformis—the species in which it is most excessive—it is often caused by soil, situation, age of the plants, etc.

In the following paper I purpose describing two new species, and supplying some omissions in the characters of those with which we are already acquainted, from descriptions in the “Handbook of the New Zealand Flora” and elsewhere.

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Carmichælia Enysii,

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Carmichælia crassicaulis, Hook. f.

Branches of young plant much compressed, closely striated, pubescent. Leaves unifoliolate, articulated on short grooved petioles, orbicular, ovate, or oblong, usually emarginate, gradually becoming reduced to sessile deciduous scales. Wings slightly shorter than the keel, ovary 1, rarely 2-ovuled. Pod villous with white silky hairs, obscurely deltoid, rounded beneath, beak reduced to a mere point when fully mature, 1-seeded, seeds brown, slightly mottled with black, placenta not forming a replum, always adherent to one of the valves.

A remarkably local species, restricted to a few habitats in the mountains of Canterbury and Otago.

Carmichælia enysii, n. s. Plate XXX.

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Forming dense hard compact patches, scarcely exceeding 1″ above the surface of the ground; 1′–4′ in diameter. Root and lower branches stout, secondary branches 1″ long, branchlets ½″ long, 1/20″–1/12″ broad, glabrous, compressed. Leaves and flowers not seen. Pods solitary, 3/10″ long (including beak) on erect or recurved peduncles shorter than the pod, orbicularovate with a short curved beak compressed, 1-seeded, seed black, replum rather stout, incomplete.

Hab. South Island, terraces of the Porter River, Waimakariri. J. D. Enys and T. Kirk.

One of the most remarkable plants in the Flora, the branches are so dense that it is impossible to thrust the finger between them. In dehiscence one valve becomes partially separated from the replum, but remains attached near the apex, and both valves become contorted in such a manner as to give the pod a curious deltoid appearance. Seeds 1, reniform, very rarely 2 or 3. Ovules 2–5.

A seedling plant has developed at this date (February, 1884) small orbicular emarginate leaves on slender petioles; these, in all probability, will be gradually succeeded by scales.

Our plant appears remarkably local, not more than a dozen specimens having been observed at present.

A small barren specimen from the Ashburton kindly given me by Mr. T. H. Potts, F.L.S., may possibly belong to this species.

Carmichælia uniflora, T. Kirk, n. s. Plate XXXI.

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Forming large lax patches 1″–2″ high, stems creeping for some distance underground and giving off slender distant branches. Branchlets compressed, glabrous ¾″–1″ long, 1/25″–1/20″ broad, notches few, distant. Leaves not seen. Flowers solitary ¼″ long on capillary puberulous peduncles, jointed about the middle, minutely bracteolate. Calyx glabrous, teeth acute short, standard slightly reflexed, rounded, wings stouter than the keel, ovary glabrous. Pod (immature) linear oblong, style recurved.

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Hab. South Island—Lochnavar, Valley of the Poulter, J. D. Enys.

An extremely slender species, allied to C. nana, Hook. f. That species however differs in the wider branchlets, more compact, stouter habit, racemed flowers and broader pods.

Carmichælia munroi, Hook. f.

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Leaves minute, cuneate or obovate, emarginate, silky, gradually succeeded by minute scales. Pod 1/3″–½″ long, slightly falcate, rarely straight, with a short straight or oblique beak, remarkably turgid, valves corrugated. Seeds 4–5 mottled.

I suspect that the leaves described above are preceded by others of larger size.

Carmichælia williamsii, T. Kirk. Plate XXXII.

Trans. N.Z. Inst., xii., p. 394.

A further supply of specimens from Archdeacon W. L. Williams enables me to offer a plate of this fine species, and to add a description of the fruit to the characters already given. None of my pods however are fully mature: the most advanced is a single pod collected by Mr. Buchanan at Hicks Bay, and for which I am indebted to Dr. Hector.

Pods on stout erect pedicels, slightly turgid, oblong or obliquely oblong, with a long straight beak, 1″–1 ¼″ including beak. Seeds 9–10 red, mottled with black.

Carmichælia kirkii, Hook. f. Plate XXXIII.

Ic. Pl., t. 1332.

Branches few, distant, extremely slender, 2′–3′ long, or more, terete, grooved. Leaves few, pinnately 3–5-foliolate, ½″–1″ long, leaflets sessile, orbicular, emarginate, ¼″ long, glabrous, racemes 3–5-flowered, lax, rhachis and pedicels slender, bracts ciliated. Flowers ½″ long, calyx glabrous, teeth acute, vexillum 2–lobed, orbicular, wings longer than the keel, ovary glabrous. Pod ½″ long, ellipsoidal, with a long perfectly straight subulate beak, valves faintly reticulate, seeds 2, replum stout, broad.

Hab. South Island, Cardrona Valley, T. Kirk. Otepopo, D. Petrie.

A very distinct species, differing from all others in habit, flowers, and fruit. The long flexuous branches are unable to support their own weight and usually become interlaced with adjacent shrubs.

Carmichælia pilosa, Col.

The branches of the North Island plant are much compressed and usually distichous, but on the Canterbury plains they are frequently plano-convex, or even terete and fastigiate. I can, however, detect no difference in the pods; the ovary varies in the degree of silkiness; the same branch may produce specimens with but few hairs, while others may be villous. In most cases the hairs speedily fall away after fertilization has taken

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Carmichælia Uniflora.

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Carmichælia Williamsii, T Kirk, n. s..

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place, although very rarely a few scattered hairs may be found on pods nearly mature. The pod differs very slightly from C. odorata, of which it appears to be a variety.

Carmichælia australis.

Easily distinguished by its red seeds. In the “Handbook” it is stated to be “common along the East Coast and interior of the North and South Islands,” a statement which requires some qualification. It is the only species found between the Waikato settlements and the North Cape, and is certainly common north of a line drawn from Castle Point to the mouth of the Manawatu river, but it does not occur within many miles of Port Nicholson. In the South Island it has been recorded from the districts of Nelson, Canterbury, and Otago. With regard to Nelson, Mr. Cheeseman informs me that an error was made in identification, the specimens being in bad condition and belonging to C. flagelliformis. I have botanized over large portions of Banks Peninsula and other parts of the Canterbury district, but never saw a specimen, and may say the same with regard to Otago and Southland, so that if found in the South Island at all, which I greatly doubt, it cannot be considered common.

Carmichælia odorata, Col.

A species varying to a surprising degree in habit, but remarkably constant in the structure of the flowers and fruit. Sometimes the branches are prostrate and present a close resemblance to C. juncea, at others erect or spreading; leafless and foliaceous specimens may be found side by side; the branches may be terete and extremely slender or excessively compressed and broad, while the inflorescence may vary from a few scattered fascicles, to dense whorls—or many-flowered lax racemes; not unfrequently all the variations may be found in the same plant. Pods 2–3-seeded.

It is the most abundant form on many parts of the Canterbury Plains.

Carmichælia flagelliformis, Col.

Leaves pinnately 3–5-foliolate, leaflets emarginate.

On Banks Peninsula the branchlets are sometimes filiform and pendulous, presenting a very elegant appearance; but in this state the flowers are produced sparingly.

The most common species in Southland, and attains the southern limit of the genus in the lower part of the Makarewa Valley.

Carmichælia juncea, Col.

Leaves unifoliolate, or pinnately 3–5-foliolate, silky, terminal leaflet much the longest; leaflets ovate or linear oblong, sometimes produced in profusion at the base of the branches, which are closely appressed to the ground and excessively compressed.

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Explanation of Plates XXX.–XXXIII.
Plate XXX.

Carmichælia enysii, natural size.


Branchlets with pods.


Dehiscing pod, back view.


The same, front view. All enlarged.

Plate XXXI.

C. uniflora, T. Kirk, nat. size.




Ovary enlarged.

Plate XXXII.

C. williamsii, T. Kirk.


" with immature pods.


" with pod further advanced.


C. kirkii, natural size.


" fruit natural size.


Flower enlarged.


Ovary "


Wing "