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Volume 68, 1938-39
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Visit of
Professor Dr. Karl Skottsberg

Professor Skottsberg, Director of the Gothenburg Botanical Gardens, Sweden, is a recognized authority on taxonomic botany and phyto-geography. Especially is he renowned for his studies on the biological relations of Austral and Pacific lands, and his work has been of deep interest and vital importance to New Zealand botanists, as was emphasized by the late Dr. L. Cockayne. An example is his recent monograph on the genus Astelia. His services to New Zealand were recognized by his election as an Honorary Member of the Royal Society of New Zealand. The Professor had long desired to visit New Zealand to see for himself a flora and vegetation on the history of which he had thrown so much light.

Hearing that Professor Skottsberg would be working on the bog vegetation of the Hawaiian Islands, local botanists thought that he might be induced to extend his itinerary to include New Zealand. The idea was warmly taken up by the Royal Society of New Zealand and by the Senate of the New Zealand University. Local branches of the Royal Society and the University gave keen support, so that funds sufficient to enable the visit to be made were soon raised. Great interest was expressed by the New Zealand Government and a free railway pass over all lines was willingly granted.

A formal invitation was sent by the Royal Society and the University Senate, which was gratefully accepted by Professor Skottsberg. Unfortunately, circumstances would allow of only a five weeks' stay. The Professor arrived in Auckland on October 17th, 1938, and was welcomed by Dr. H. H. Allan on behalf of the President of the Royal Society and the Chancellor of the University Senate, and by representatives of the local bodies interested.

Two lectures were delivered in Auckland and botanical excursions made under the guidance of Mr. T. L. Lancaster, of Auckland University College, and Miss L. M. Cranwell, of the Auckland Museum. These included visits to the Waitakere Ranges, Rangitoto Island, Rotorua, Rainbow Mountain, the Tongariro National Park, and Mount Hauhungatahi.

Two lectures were delivered in Wellington, and the Professor was welcomed on behalf of the Government by the Honorable P. Fraser. An excursion of several days was made to the Tararua Mountains, under the guidance of the staff of the Botany Division, Plant Research Bureau, and shorter local visits were made. The Professor twice examined the Otari Open Air Plant Museum, and laid a wreath of native plants, collected by himself, on the grave of his friend of many years, the late Dr. Leonard Cockayne. A luncheon talk was delivered before the Rotary Club on “Nature Preservation in Sweden,” and an examination made of the coastal vegetation of Wellington Harbour.

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Besides lecturing in Christchurch, Professor Skottsberg opened the Cockayne Memorial Garden, to be devoted to native plants, and visited the botanical gardens and various private gardens. A special visit was paid to his friend, Mr. R. M. Laing, our veteran algologist. In addition to local excursions visits were made to Arthur Pass and Mount Torlesse, under the guidance of Messrs. C. E. Foweraker, of the Canterbury University College, and J. W. Calder, of the Canterbury Agricultural College. A luncheon talk on “Experiences in South America” was given to the Graduates' Association.

After lecturing in Dunedin, Professor Skottsberg visited the Botanical Gardens and several private gardens noted for their collections of native plants. Under the guidance of Messrs. Geo. Simpson and J. Scott Thomson he ascended Mount Maungatua, and made an excursion of several days, including visits to Lakes Manapouri, Te Anau and Wakatipu, and the Eglinton Valley to the Homer Saddle. The return journey was made via Central Otago and the Waipori Gorge.

On his return to Auckland the Professor lectured before the students of the Training College on the “Distribution of Antarctic Vegetation,” and to the Auckland Botanical Society on “The Hawaiian Islands.” This was illustrated by a beautiful series of colour photographs taken during his work in the islands. Further local excursions were made, including one to Paremoreno to see Loxsoma Cunninghamii.

The lectures delivered before the branches of the Royal Society and the University Colleges were on the following topics: The Biological Relations of the Juan Fernandez Islands; Along the Cordilleras of Chile; The Vegetation of Subantarctic America. These were also open to the general public. The large audiences that attended will long retain vivid memories of the vegetation and geography of the regions described, illustrated as they were by a remarkably fine series of slides.

Professor Skottsberg also gave several shorter talks, delivered radio addresses on “Easter Island” and “Paradise Lost: a Chapter in the History of Antarctica,” and eagerly sought opportunities of discussions with local botanists and students. A typical example of his eagerness to help was his hour's stay with an isolated young enthusiast at the Homer Saddle.

The Professor collected practically every flowering plant that came under his notice, and the long hours spent in caring for his treasures was a lesson not likely to be forgotten by those who observed it. His genial personality, his command of the English tongue, his readiness to help, his capacity for work and his profound knowledge of the subjects dealt with will long inspire those who came under his influence.

The list of those who so freely rendered help is too long for citation, but each and every one has already felt that he has been well repaid by the success of the visit, and to each and every one Professor Skottsberg tenders his sincerest thanks.

H. H. A.