Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
Volume 23, 1890
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Art. XLVIII.—On the Botany of Antipodes Island.

[Read before the Wellington Philosophical Society, 13th February 1891.]

Antipodes Island is situate in 49° 41′ south latitude, and 178° 43′ of east longitude. It was discovered by Captain Pendleton, in the year 1800, but up to the present nothing whatever has been known of its fauna and flora. The island has the shape of a ham, its greatest length being two miles and a half from east to west: the eastern extremity corresponds to the shank of the ham, and appears to have been formed by a narrow lava-stream; its greatest breadth is above a mile and a half from north to south. It is simply the crater, of an extinct volcano, and would be roughly circular in shape were it not for the lava-stream which has been already mentioned. The cliffs are very steep and rugged, rendering the island inaccessible except at the north-east corner, where a landing can be effected only in the finest weather; a small stream descends to the sea on this side, and another on the north-west. The crateriform portion of the island is en-

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circled by low rounded hills on three sides, broken, however, by the stream which flows over the cliffs on the north-west side: a small well-defined cup-crater is still visible amongst the hills on the south side, but from want of time I was unable to examine it. Mount Galloway, on the western side of the island, is a bold round-topped hill, and forms the highest point, attaining an altitude of 1,320ft. as determined by Captain Fairchild.

It is not quite certain whether the entire island is volcanic. Some distance from the landing-place I noticed what appeared to be a mass of finely-bedded reddish sandstone, but could not get near enough to determine its character: it may have been phonolite, which sometimes assumes a similar appearance, and which occurs in the interior of the island. Most of the rocks observed were basaltic.

Large portions of the interior are more or less swampy, and the bulk of the vegetation consists of coarse sedges and grasses, amongst which many small herbs are concealed. There is an almost total absence of ligneous vegetation, the only woody plants observed being three species of Coprosma, two of which are of prostrate habit or nearly so; and the largest, which is confined to the vicinity of Mount Galloway, rarely exceeds the stature of a low bush. Altogether when seen on a dull day the island presents a most desolate and unattractive appearance.

In many places the dullness is relieved by the albatros (Diomedea exulans), whose nests were dotted over large portions of the island. Some young dark-coloured birds, with down still remaining on their necks and wings, were observed sitting upon or constructing nests, but only one of the nests seen by me contained an egg. In all instances the truncated mound of earth forming the nest of these young birds was roughly made, loose, and somewhat small, presenting an unfinished appearance, which formed a remarkable contrast to the nests of the adult birds by which they were surrounded. Sea-hawks were numerous, and constantly on the look-out for unguarded eggs. The small yellow-headed parroquet (Platycercus novæ-zelandiæ) was not unfrequent at the base of Mount Galloway; and the Auckland Island snipe was observed in most parts of the island, but of somewhat smaller size and deeper colour than the typical form; this form may be identical with the doubtful Gallinago pusilla.

To return to the vegetation: the mass of sedges and grasses was relieved in many places by the large leaves and flower panicles of Stilbocarpa polaris and by a handsome Senecio new to science. Although herbaceous, it is of robust growth, and forms large spreading bushes with fistulose stems the thickness of a man's finger, and terminal corymbs of yellow ray-

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less flower-heads. It is related toS. candicans, DC, of the Falkland Islands, but the leaves are sessile and much divided; it appears likely to be of easy cultivation. A curious and pretty gentian, also new to science, was plentiful; it formed rather close masses of erect stems, procumbent at their base, and sometimes over 1ft. in diameter. The stems and leaves were either of a pale-yellow colour or reddish-purple, with solitary axillary flowers, those on the plants with, yellow stems being white, and those on the others purple, vertically streaked with red, the result in each case being that the flowers, notwithstanding their abundance, are not observed until the plant is somewhat closely examined. It is allied to G. concinna, of the Auckland Islands. Colobanthus muscoides was observed on the cliffs, and in this locality exhibits a considerable extension of its range eastward. A remarkable form of Stellaria decipiens, with the leaves much smaller and the capsules much larger than those of the typical form on the Auckland Islands, was found growing over deserted nests of the albatros. Ligusticum antipodum was abundant, although everywhere past flowering. Pleurophullum criniferum was found in many places, and was fully as luxuriant as on the Auckland and Campbell Islands. The three last-named plants exhibit in this locality a considerable extension of their northern and eastern range. A dwarf-nettle, Urtica australis, with large leaves of considerable stinging-power, was plentiful, chiefly on the eastern side of the island. It is stated, on the authority of Bidwill, to occur in the southern extremity of the North Island, but has not been collected of late years in any part of the North or South Islands, and appears to be confined to small islands in Foveaux Strait, the Chatham Islands, Antipodes Island, the Auckland and Campbell Islands. Another plant of considerable interest is Deschampsia hookeri, originally described from Campbell Island under the name of Catabrosa antarctica, Hook, f. The typical form of Carex paniculata occurs in immense tussocks on the north side of the island, and could not be distinguished, from, the ordinary British form. The ordinary New Zealand form, better known as C. appressa, R. Br., was plentiful. The principal grasses were Poa foliosa, Festuca scoparia, and Agrostis antarctica. A slender form of Poa anceps with elongated panicles was observed in several places, and in this locality attains its extreme southern limit. Cotula plumosa occurs sparingly on the cliffs, and Juncus scheuzerioides was abundant in a Sphagnum swamp, marking the source of springs on the slope of Mount Galloway.

About a dozen species of ferns and lycopods were collected, but, with the exception of Hypolepis millefolium and Lomaria dura, all are of wide distribution in the colony.

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The 55 species of Phanerogams and Ferns enumerated in the following list comprise representatives of 19 natural orders, or an average of 2·8 species for each order, allowing for the naturalized forms, This is a low average even for a New Zealand district, especially when it is remembered the Compositæ, Cyperaceæ, Gramineæ, and Filices comprise more than one-half the total number of species.

Grouped according to their distribution in New Zealand only, the plants of Antipodes Island may be arranged as under:—

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1. Extending to the North and South Islands 34
2. Extending to the South Island 6
3. Extending to Antarctic islands and Stewart Island 2
4. Extending to Antarctic islands only 9
5. Endemic 2
Naturalized 2

It must, of course, be understood that the enumeration here given cannot be considered fully exhaustive, although it is not probable that any large additions will be made.

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Class. Caryophylleæ.
4. Stellaria decipiens, Hook. f., var. parvifolia.
" media, Linn. Naturalized.
1. Colobanthus billardieri, Fenzl.
4. " muscoides, Hook. f.
1. Montia fontana, L.
1. Acæna sanguisorbæ, Vahl.
1. Tillæa moschata, DC.
1. Callitriche verna, L.
2. Epilobium linnæoides, Hook. f.
1. " confertifolium, Hook. f.
1. " alsinoides, A. Cunn.
1. Apium australe, Thouars.
4. Ligusticum antipodum, Hook. f.
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Class. Araliaceæ.
4. Stilbocarpa polaris, Decaisne.
4. Coprosma ciliata, Hook, f.
1. " cuneata, Hook. f.
1. " repens, Hook. f.
4. Pleurophyllum criniferum, Hook. f.
1. Lagenophora forsteri, DC.
4. Cotula plumosa, Hook. f.
1. Gnaphalium bellidioides, Forster.
5. Senecio antipodus, n. s.
1. Sonchus oleraceus, L.
2. Pratia angulata, Hook. f., var. arenaria
5. Gentiana antipoda, n. s.
1. Urtica australis, Hook. f.
1. Corysanthes (?).
1. Chiloglottis bifolia.
1. " cornuta, Hook. f.
1. Prasophyllum colensoi, Hook. f.
2. Juncus scheuzerioides, Gaud.
4. Luzula crinita, Hook. f.
1. Scirpus cernuus, Vahl.
1. Uncinia rupestris, Raoul.
2. Carex paniculata, L., var. appressa
1. " ternaria, Forster.
2. " trifida, Car.
4. Agrostis antarctica, Hook. f.
1. Deschampsia hookeri.
3. Poa foliosa, Hook. f., a.
1. " anceps, Forster, var.
" annua, L. Naturalized.
3. Festuca scoparia, Hook. f.
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Class. Filices.
1. Hymenophyllum multifidum, Swartz.
1. Hypolepis millefolium, Hook.
1. Pteris incisa, Thunb.
1. Lomaria capensis, Willd.
1. " alpina, Spreng.
2. " dura, Moore.
1. Asplenium obtusatum, Forst.
1. " bulbiferum, Forst.
1. Aspidium aculeatum, Sw., var. vestitum.
1. Polypodium australe, Mett.
1. Lycopodium fastigiatum, R. Br.
1. " varium, R. Br.