Art. L.—Notice of the Occurrence of an Undescribed Palm-lily on the Auckland Peninsula.
[Read before the Wellington Philosophical Society, 26th February, 1896.]
The special interest attached to the arborescent Liliaceæ of the colony will, I doubt not, be a sufficient apology for drawing attention to the existence in the extreme north of an undescribed plant belonging to this group, although but little can be said respecting it beyond the fact of its occurrence. At present it is not possible to determine whether it should be referred to Cordyline or Dracæna, or possibly enough to some other genus; but it is only by publishing the facts as far as known that attention can be drawn to the plant, and specimens obtained for identification.
About three years ago Mr. John Maxwell sent the upper part of a leaf of what appeared to be a species of Cordyline or Dracæna, informing me that the plant from which it had been taken was growing in the garden of Mr. Reid, Ahipara, and that it had been found in the forest near that settlement. On applying to Mr. Reid, that gentleman most obligingly for-warded a complete leaf, and stated that he had two plants under cultivation, both of which were obtained from the bush on the face of a cliff, about 200ft. above sea-level; the flowers and fruit were quite unknown. He promised to search for the mass of tree-roots, which I am glad to say is still living under plant, and inform me of the result. Subsequently I received a living plant, which had evidently been dug from amongst a cultivation, although it has made no growth at present. Recently I learned that it was forwarded by a young lady, who unfortunately did not favour me with any information as to the conditions under which the plant was found.
The blade of the leaf sent by Mr. Reid is exactly 18in. long by 5 ½in. broad at its widest part; it is almost elliptic-oblong in shape, although the upper half is slightly broader than the lower; the apex is rather abruptly acute, and the base is gradually narrowed into the petiole, which is fully ½in. broad on the flattened upper surface, and convex beneath, with a broad wing along each margin for its entire length of 4in. The abruptness with which the petiole is narrowed into the midrib is very remarkable; the midrib is extremely slender, and is continued to the point of the leaf, being scarcely more than a mere line in the upper part; the innumerable nerves being given off along its entire course. In
texture the leaf approaches that of Cordyline banksïi, but is more membranous.
I entertain the hope that specimens of the flowers and fruit may be obtained in time to allow of its being described in the “Student's Flora,” and venture to ask the assistance of any resident in the district who may be interested in natural history pursuits towards realising this object.
It affords me pleasure to name this plant provisionally Cordyline cheesemanii, as an acknowledgment of my obligation to Mr. Cheeseman for his excellent botanical work.
I venture to remonstrate against the use of the unmeaning name “cabbage-tree” applied by many settlers to the various species of Cordyline. It may be too much to expect that the native names, “ti,” “ti kapu,” “ti koraha,” &c., should come into general use, but surely the most appropriate name, “palm-lily,” for which we are indebted to the learned Baron von Mueller, is sufficiently elegant and euphonious to be generally adopted.
May I be permitted another digression ? I am convinced that much has yet to be done in working up the plants of the district to the north of Whangape and Mongonui. The Cunninghams' exploration scarcely' extended so far north. Mr. Colenso visited the district in very early times, nearly fifty years ago, when he discovered Lycopodium drummondii, which has not been found by any later collector. Buchanan's visit to the district in 1865–66 was of a somewhat cursory character, my own visit in 1867 was restricted to a few days during the early winter; yet a few novelties were found by both of us even under such disadvantageous conditions. Ozothamnus lanceolatus, discovered by Mr. Buchanan, and Kyllinga monocephala, detected near Mongonui by Mr. Ball, have not been observed by others. There can be no doubt that a careful examination of the district from Whangape and Mongonui northward would be attended with gratifying results. It has long been known as the home of several plants of a tropical or subtropical character, such as Hibiscus diversifolius, Ipomæa palmata, Cassytha paniculata, Pisonia umbellifera, &c. It would be of great assistance to New Zealand botanists if some of the intelligent settlers of the district could be induced to assist in the work.