Art. XL.—Notice of Olearia hectori, Hook. f.
[Read before the Otago Institute, 13th November, 1883.]
An imperfect notice of this species is to be found in Hooker's “Handbook of the Flora of New Zealand.” The specimens, from which the description was drawn up, appear to have shown neither flowers nor fruit. As the plant is one of singular interest, I have thought it worth while to direct attention to it, and to make out a full description.
Few of the shrubs indigenous to New Zealand are more worthy of cultivation than this. When fairly grown it bears great numbers of very sweetly scented flower-heads. The heads, which are grouped in fascicles, have a yellow tint, but are not large or conspicuous, rarely exceeding the size of a hazel-nut. The odour, which is singularly powerful and very agreeable without being cloying, strongly resembles that of mellow ripe peaches. In this respect the plant is in no way inferior to many exotics that are cultivated with great care for their delicate scent. The shrub grows to a considerable size, sometimes forming a small tree of 3 or 4 inches in diameter. Such large specimens are, however, rare, and evidently of great age. The common forms are small compact graceful bushes, with very numerous tortuous branches and twigs and light or greyish-green foliage. It is evergreen, and as an ornamental shrub yields to few of our natives. It grows naturally in rich black soil and in dry situations. Near the coast I have
seen it only in places where the soil is of volcanic origin; but in the interior of Otago and also in Southland it thrives well in alluvial soil. It can be easily propagated by cuttings. Plants taken from the bush with a very slender complement of roots have done very well in my garden.
In directing the attention of gardeners, amateur and professional, to the merits of this species of Olearia, I feel confident that any trouble they may take in procuring and propagating it will be amply repaid by its fine appearance as an ornamental shrub and its delicate scent. Ere many years pass by it should carry the name of our fellow-colonist, Dr. Hector, into many parts of the old world, and be reckoned one of the richest floral gifts of these islands.
The following is a detailed description of the species, which is a remarkably distinct one:—
An erect, compact, twiggy shrub, or small tree, 8–20 feet high. Branches tortuous. Leaves ½–1 ½ inches long, on slender petioles, obovate or narrowed symmetrically above and below the middle, membranous, covered below with pale grey tomentum, veins distinct.
Heads in fascicles of 10–12, sessile on the ends of short lateral branches, with a thin bract at the base of each head, densely cottony on the outer surface, smelling sweetly and strongly of peaches.
Involucral scales in two series, the inner larger and more membranous, cottony on the back and margins.
Florets 5–8, outer row shortly ligulate; pappus in one series of stout, scabrid, tapering hairs not thickened at the tips. Achene with rather long silky hairs.
It has been gathered in the following localities:—Saddle Hill; Vauxhall, Dunedin; Taiaroa Head; Otepopo Bush; neighbourhood of Invercargill; Nugget Point; and gullies near Clyde, Cromwell and Arrowtown.
In some respects this species differs from all others of the genus and chiefly in having the heads fascicled and the ligulate florets yellow.