5. Drake sent by Mr. Taylor White; hybrid between New Zealand grey duck and mallard.
Fourth Meeting: 20th September, 1898.
Mr. E. Tregear, President, in the chair.
Papers.—1. “The Fungus Flora of New Zealand,” by George Massee, F.L.S., F.R.M.S.; communicated by Sir James Hector. (Transactions, p. 282.)
Sir James Hector explained the growth, nature, and composition of the ordinary edible mushroom and suchlike fungi, including, of course, toadstools, puff-balls, &c., which, he said, formed almost the very lowest grade in vegetable life. The extraordinary power of fungi to propagate
and spread the germs of fearful zymotic diseases was pointed out, and Mr. Massee, in his paper, stated that millions of pounds' worth of damage to crops of grain by rust and other affections could be traced to poisonous fungi. This loss might be easily prevented by experts imparting knowledge to those concerned. He considered the information contained in Professor Massee's paper to be most valuable.
The President thanked Sir James Hector for the interesting and instructive explanation he had given on this subject. He hoped other members would take the matter up and add to our information.
Mr. Travers, who had at one time collected this class of vegetable organisms, said he handed them to a visiting Swedish naturalist for his museum, and had not since heard of them. Among the English only one form of fungus (the mushroom) was eaten, but on the Continent, and in Russia particularly, many other forms which we looked upon with disgust were eaten, and found to be an extremely nutritious and valuable food. It was difficult to say what form of vegetable life was not attacked by the germs of disease propagated by different forms of fungi. Unquestionably this fungi study was a highly valuable one. It was interesting to know that this was only the first part of a paper which Professor Massee was contributing in sections to the New Zealand Institute.
Mr. Hudson said the fungus eaten was the yellow one, found under pine trees.
Sir James Hector, in reply to Mr. Richardson, said it was no use to cut them to get rid of them, as they did not grow again.
2. “On the Interaction of Cyclones on one another,” by Major-General Schaw, C.B., R.E. (Transactions, p. 567.)
Sir James Hector explained the system followed by his department in recording weather observations. He said that advices as to weather indications were received by him daily, not only from all parts of the colony, but from Australia, and even more distant parts. Until a short time ago these used to be sent out all over the colony through the Press Association, but for some reason or other the Association had discontinued this valuable practice. Sir James Hector expressed surprise, too, that the newspapers did not publish the weather chart daily. He thought that the subject treated by General Schaw was fully explained by the diagrams used in the Meteorological Office.
Mr. Harding said the newspapers in Australia and England paid a good deal of attention to these weather diagrams, and always used them.
3. “On the Use of Formaline,” by Dr. G. Thilenius; communicated by Sir J. Hector. (Transactions, p. 101.)
The question was raised as to whether anything further had been heard of the kumi, the strange animal or reptile alleged to have been seen near Gisborne recently.
Sir James Hector said the word “kumi” appeared in Mr. E. Tregear's Maori-Polynesian dictionary, one of the definitions given being “a huge fabulous reptile.”
Mr. Tregear told the members that, so far as his use of the word was concerned, he considered the animal mythical, but it did not follow that it was actually so. The only knowledge he had on the subject was that the early explorers were told by Maoris that there was a kind of big lizard, sometimes 5 ft. or 6 ft. long, which was eaten. That it should be eaten was rather surprising, considering the aversion, and even horror with which the Maoris regarded lizards. If such a strange animal as was reported really existed, it would perhaps turn out to be a species of Australian iguana.
Sir James Hector considered this a geographical improbability. As to the alleged kumi, he said that in 1875 Mr. Carlton, then Chairman of Committees in the House of Representatives, and a great scholar, rushed into his (Sir James's) room with the remark, “At last we have really got it.” It transpired that Mr. Carlton referred to a strange quadruped “with six legs” which had been found in a flooded river somewhere about Hokianga, and the natives, horrified at seeing such an extraordinary creature, hacked it all to pieces. If the kumi existed at ail it might, he thought, be found allied to the great salamander of Japan, now almost extinct. The reported description indicated this; and it was certainly a reptile of ibis kind that was carved oh a gable-post at Rotorua, and which was figured in Hochstetter's “New Zealand,” p 424 (Eng. trans.).
Mr. Harding read extracts of letters from the Rev. Mr. Colenso on the subject.