Read before the Wellington Philosophical Society, 17th February, 1897.]
The publication of Mr. Petrie's copious and valuable “List of the Flowering-plants indigenous to Otago” in the last volume of “Transactions of the New Zealand Institute” naturally attracts attention to the efforts of earlier labourers in the same field, so that no apology is needed for presenting a brief statement of the results of their efforts. The elaboration of the flora or fauna of any district can only be effected by a long succession of earnest workers, those of the present taking up the work where it fell, from the hands of their predecessors, and in their turn passing it on to those who succeed them. It is well that the memory of the pioneers in any branch of research should be treasured by those who reap the benefit of their labours.
The first botanists to visit any part of Otago were Reinwold and George Forster, and Dr. Sparrman, who accompanied Cook's second expedition, and landed at Dusky Sound in 1772. Their collections were not large, comprising fewer than 170 species, including those obtained in Queen Charlotte Sound, &c. Most of these were published in G. Forster's “Florulæ Insularum Australium Prodromus,” but the descriptions were very poor. Amongst the plants obtained by them were the famous Cordyline indivisa and the true Gentiana saxosa.
Dr. Archibald Menzies, surgeon to Captain Vancouver's expedition, collected largely at Dusky Sound in: 1791, especially in Ferns, Musci and Hepaticæ. Many beautiful species collected by him were described by Sir William Hooker in his “Musci Exotici,” and in Hooker and Greville's “Icones Filicum.” Gentiana saxosa was also collected by Menzies, but was not seen by other collectors until it was found by Professor Hutton at the Bluff in 1873.
Dr. Lyall, surgeon on H.M.S. “Acheron,” during Captain Stokes's survey of the South Island, 1847–49, made large collection of plants in Stewart Island, Foveaux Strait, and the west coast of Otago, including many important additions to the flora, the most striking being the grand Ranunculus lyatli (found in a flowerless state only) and Senecio bifistulosus. These and others were described by Sir Joseph Hooker in Flora. Novæ-Zelandiæ.
In 1861 Dr. W. Lauder Lindsay visited Otago, spending rather less than three months in the district, during which he made excursions to Taieri Perry, Clutha Ferry, Tuapeka, Wetherstone's Diggings, and other places within sixty miles of Dunedin, and proved himself a most indefatigable collector and acute observer. Long known an an able lichenologist, he exhibited a decided preference for lichens and other cryptogams, of which he made extensive collections, but was scarcely less enthusiastic in his investigation of the flowering-plants of the district, adding Celmisia lindsayi and Poa lindsayi to the flora. Viscum lindsayi, named in his honour by Professor Oliver, was originally discovered by Mr. Buchanan. The results of his work were published in 1868, under the title of Contributions to New Zealand Botany,” with several coloured illustrations by Fitch. He gives a catalogue of the plants collected during his excursions, showing 199 species of flowering-plants, 40 ferns, &c., 149 lichens, 110 diatoms, with numerous mosses, algæ, and fungi, making a total of 610 species, of which 50 were supposed to be undescribed. The work abounds with critical notes, which are always interesting, and often of high value, the whole constituting an almost unique contribution to the botanical literature of the colony.
In 1862–63 Sir James Hector and Mr. Buchanan explored large portions of the West Coast sounds and mountains, and succeeded in making numerous important additions to the flora, most of which were described in the “Handbook of the New Zealand Flora” by Sir-Joseph Hooker, 1864–67. In addition to the discovery of new species, they greatly extended our knowledge of indigenous plants. Amongst the most remarkable of their discoveries were Pachycladon novœzelandiœ, Ranunculus buchanani, R. chordorhizos, R. pachoyrrhizus, Hectorella cœspitosa, &c.
Mr. Buchanan had previously done good botanical work in Various parts of the district. Some of his additions were described in the Handbook, while others, such as Colobanthus buchanani, C. canaliculatus, &c., have but recently received the attention they merit. In 1865 he prepared his “Sketch of the Botany of Otago,” with a catalogue of the flowering-plants and ferns collected in the district to that date. This was not published until 1869, when it appeared in the Appendix to the first volume of “Transactions of the New Zealand Institute,” greatly increasing the value of the volume. In the Sketch he divided the provincial district into an eastern and a western region, the dividing-line extending along the course of the Clutha from Lake Wanaka to the Nuggets. He enumerates 600 species, of which 393 are dicotyledons, 118 monocotyledons, the remainder ferns and fern allies. When the difficulties under which the author had to labour at that time are considered, and the fact that the concluding portion of the Handbook had not been published is taken into account, it will be seen that its accuracy is remarkable. In this respect it has not been excelled by any later production of a similar character. Until his removal to Wellington Mr. Buchanan held the office of botanist and draughtsman to the Geological Survey of Otago. Numerous papers on Otago plants, with illustrations from his facile pencil, are scattered through the annual volumes of “Transactions of the New Zealand Institute.” It should be added that his “Sketch of the Botany of Otago” was the first local flora published in the colony.
In 1872 Mr. J. S. Webb published a short list of plants found in the vicinity of Invercargill in the fifth volume of the “Transactions of the New Zealand Institute,” which comprised three or four species not previously recorded for the Otago district.
Mr. G. M. Thomson published a copious list of interesting plants not previously recorded for the Otago district in the “Transactions of the New Zealand Institute,” vol. ix., p. 538. Amongst them are several species of considerable interest—Melicytus macrophyllus, a northern plant, the occurrence of which in Otago could not have been anticipated; Senecio sciadophilus; and Myrsine chathamica. A catalogue of the naturalised plants of the district, by the same author, appeared in vol. vii., p. 370, of the Transactions.
Under the title of “Contributions to the Botany of Otago.” a list of about a hundred flowering-plants and ferns not previously recorded for the district was published by the present writer in the tenth volume of the Transactions. The list comprised Carmichaelia monroi, Drosera pygmæa, only known elsewhere in the colony at its northern extremity, Celmisia
walkeri, Gratiola nana, Potamogeton pectinatus, Carex acicularis, Stipa arundinacea, &c.
In 1880 Mr. G. M. Thomson and Mr. Petrie visited Stewart Island. The latter gentleman published an interesting account of the trip, with a valuable list of the flowering plants collected, in vol. xiii., p. 323, of the Transactions. Liparophyllum gunnii, Actinotus bellidioides, Ehrharta thomsoni, and Carex longiculmis were amongst the interesting additions recorded.
Dr. Lyall had collected numerous plants on the island during his visit in the “Acheron.” Mr. G. M. Thomson had visited it on two previous occasions, when he discovered the fine Brachycome, named in his honour; and the late Mr. Charles Traill had collected for several years previously, but, with the exception of Dr. Lyall's plants which are included in the “Handbook,” nothing had been published.
Mr. Petrie's “List of the Flowering-plants indigenous to Otago,” published in the “Transactions of the New Zealand Institute,” vol. xxviii., page 540, is the last and the most important contribution to the botany of the southern district, and embodies the results of nearly twenty years' work. Mr. Petrie is a close and acute observer, who made good use of the advantages offered by his position as Chief Inspector of Schools to the Education Board of Otago in working up the central portions of the district, the botany of which was but little known. The results of his examination of Mount St. Bathan's, Mount Pisa, Mount Ida, Mount Cardrona, and other high peaks constitute a marked feature in the botanical history of New Zealand during recent years, and have from time to time been published in the Transactions.
In his List he roughly divides the district into three—eastern, central, and western, Stewart Island making a fourth; but the district lists are not so complete as their author evidently intended to make them; for instance, in his paper on Stewart Island (Trans., xiii., 323) he enumerated two hundred species of flowering-plants collected by him on that island; but the number of Stewart Island plants mentioned in the general list is considerably less. This, however, is, after all, a small matter, and will only be felt by one who, like myself, finds it continually necessary to refer to local lists. I am thankful to have so complete and accurate a catalogue available for reference. Mr. Buchanan's list comprised 507 species of flowering-plants, of which 393 were dicotyledons, and 114 monocotyledons. Mr. Petrie enumerates 532 dicotyledons and 229 monocotyledons, showing an increase of fully 50 per cent, in the number of species, and greatly, reducing the enormous discrepancy between the two classes, as shown by Mr. Buchanan's list.
Although not so expressed, Mr. Petrie's list is evidently restricted to plants collected by himself. He gives as an appendix a separate list of plants reported to occur in Otago, hut not observed by him. This might have been considerably extended.
In the hope of rendering this Otago Florula still more comprehensive, I venture to add a few species not included in Mr. Petrie's enumeration, and append a short list of plants which have been erroneously recorded by various authors as indigenous to the Otago district. In conclusion, I am glad to acknowledge my indebtedness for the assistance derived from Mr. Petrie's work during the preparation of the “Student's Flora,’ now in the press.