1843 - Dieffenbach, Ernest. Travels in New Zealand [Vol.I] [Capper reprint, 1974] - Part II. - Northern Island -- Northern Districts - Chapter XXIX

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  1843 - Dieffenbach, Ernest. Travels in New Zealand [Vol.I] [Capper reprint, 1974] - Part II. - Northern Island -- Northern Districts - Chapter XXIX
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Some Remarks on the Botany of New Zealand.

If we estimate the whole area of the three islands of New Zealand to be about 80,600 square miles, or 51,584,000 square acres, we shall be astonished to hear that the whole number of plants at present known, including the marine plants, does not amount to more than 632 species. This small number is not perhaps due to our little acquaintance with New Zealand and to the want of a sufficient botanical exploration of the country; for although there is no doubt that some more species will be added when we shall have examined the rugged and snowy mountain-crests of the middle island, yet it appears to me that their number will not materially alter the asserted fact, that, for the extent of its surface, and for the varied localities which it offers to the growth of plants, --as mountains reaching above the limits of lasting snow, stony and exposed ridges, burning and extinct volcanoes, valleys and ravines with a fertile soil (where moisture and moderate warmth, so favourable to vegetable life, continually prevail), volcanic table-land, swamps and morasses, downs on the sea-coast, &c., ---the flora of New Zealand is distinguished by a scantiness of species. In this latter respect the vegetable corresponds with the animal kingdom, which, however, is still more deficient. Several zealous botanists have bestowed their labour on the plants of this country. Captain Cook, in his first voyage, in the year 1769, was accompanied by Sir Joseph Banks and Dr. Solander, who landed at several points of the east coast of the northern island, in Queen Charlotte's

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Sound and Dusky Bay. In 1772, during Captain Cook's second voyage, the two Forsters, father and son, aided by Dr. Sparmann, explored Queen Charlotte's Sound and Dusky Bay, and the result of their joint labours was Forster's 'Prodromus,' in which he described 174 species.

In 1791 Mr. Menzies accompanied Vancouver, and brought to England from Dusky Bay a large number of cryptogamic plants, which were described by Sir William Hooker.

It. was only in the year 1822 that Captain D'Urville, and his naturalist, M. Lesson, continued the labours of these botanists; and the result of their researches and those of former botanists were embodied in a 'Flora of New Zealand,' by M. Achille Richard, who described 538 species, of which 380 were phanerogamous, and 158 cryptogamous plants.

The largest additions to our knowledge of the botany of New Zealand were, however, made by Allan Cunningham in 1826, and Richard Cunningham in 1833 and 1834, and were arranged by Allan Cunningham, and published by Sir William Hooker in his 'Botanical Magazine' and in 'The Annals of Natural History.' Since the too early death of the two brothers Cunningham, both of whom fell victims to their zeal for the science of botany, Sir William Hooker, that highly distinguished botanist and amiable man, is devoting much of his time to the botany of the islands in the Southern Pacific, and especially to the flora of New Zealand. We may expect to obtain soon from his pen a manual which shall comprise all that is at present known.

Although in its flora New Zealand has some relationship with the two large continents between which it is situated, America and Australia, and even possesses a number of species identical with those of Europe, without the latter being referable to an introduction by Europeans, yet the greater number of species, and even genera, are peculiar to the country, which astonishing fact had already forced itself upon the minds of the first explorers. New Zealand, with

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some of the adjacent islands (the Chatham, Auckland, and Macquarie's), forms a botanical centre. It is sufficiently distant from both continents to preserve its botanical peculiarities, and it offers in that respect the most striking instance of an acknowledged fact in all branches of natural history, viz. that the different regions of the globe are endowed with peculiar forms of animal and vegetable life.

The number of species at present known is 632, of which number 314 are dicotyledonous or endogenous plants, and the rest, or 318, monocotyledonous and cellular plants. To what can this remarkable disproportion be due--so contrary from what is the case in other countries? Is it owing to the geological fact that New Zealand is of recent formation, and that in such countries the plants which are regarded as inferior, the cellular and cryptogamous plants, make their appearance before the more developed flowering ones? Without discussing this difficult question, I merely observe that the visitor to the distant shores of New Zealand will be struck by the scantiness of annual and flowering plants, of which only a very few possess vivid colours, and would attract the attention of the florist. In their place he will find a number of trees and ferns of various descriptions, of which the greater part of the flora consists. But these give at once a distinct character to the vegetation. If the traveller should happen to come from New South Wales, he cannot but observe either that the glaucous colour of a New South Wales landscape, produced by the Eucalypti, Casuarineae, Acaciae, and Banksias of its open forests, which is only relieved in certain alluvial situations by a fresher green, and in certain seasons and localities by a variety of beautiful flowers, has given way in New Zealand to the glossy green of a dense and mixed forest, or that the landscape, when it is covered with the social fern, has assumed a brown hue. In the former general aspect, together with the tree-ferns, palms, and Dracaenas which abound in New Zealand, that country resembles one situated between the tropics, and especially the beautiful islands of the Pacific.

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Let us now take a rapid view of the genera and species of the islands.

There are 245 species of Cellular or Flowerless plants. Of the tribe of the Algae, or seaweeds, 48 species are known, several of which are true cosmopolites, as they occur in both hemispheres--on the coasts of New Zealand as well as on those of England. They belong, amongst the Fucoideae, to the genera Sargassum, Turbinaria, Carpophyllum, Cys-toseira, Castralia; amongst the Laminarieae, to the genera Durvillea, Macrocystis, Laminaria, --several species of the latter are used by the natives to contain oil and other fluids; amongst the Florideae are the genera Amansia, Rhodo-menia, Thamnophora, Plocarnium, Rhodomela, Laurencia, Chondrus, Chelidium, Hypnea, Halymenia. I may observe here that pigs on the sea-shore feed extensively upon some of the seaweeds.

Of the lichen tribe as many as 28 species have been already described; and the volcanic nature of the country, in which large districts are covered with basaltic and scoriaceous rocks, and at the same time the moisture of the climate, are very favourable to the development of these forms of plants. Those described belong to the genera Parmelia, Cetraria, Sticta, Nephroma, Cenomyce, Stereocaulon, Alectoria, Cornicularia, Ramalina, Usnea, Collema, Caenogorium. A most beautiful and interesting kind is the Cenomyce retispora, which is found in the greatest abundance near the Bay of Islands. Some of the genera mentioned contain species which are extensively used in dyeing, and it is probable that such are also found in New Zealand.

The fungi are also represented by some species. Champignons are found everywhere in the island where horses have been introduced. Another fungus, a boletus, which grows on the weather side of the tawai-tree (Leiospermum racemosum), and to an enormous size, is used by the natives as an excellent tinder. To the fungi also belongs a very curious plant, parasitical on a caterpillar, viz. the Sphaeria Robertii, called hotete by the natives.

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In mosses and livermosses New Zealand is very rich. Most of them were collected by Menzies, many also by Cunningham and D'Urville. As Menzies collected all his specimens in the middle island, the mountainous and wooded character of which increases greatly the moisture of the climate, it is probable that many more genera and species will be discovered, as the interior of that island has scarcely ever been investigated by a botanist; The number of the species described is 72, belonging to the genera Sphagnum, Gymnostomum, Polytrichum, Dicranum, Trichostomum, Leucodon, Zygodon, Orthotrichum, Neckera, Bartramia, Codonoblepharum, Bryum, Leskea, Hypnum, Racopilum, Jungermannia (of which latter alone exist 27. species), An-thoceros, and Marchantia.

Of all plants, however, the ferns and fern-like plants are the most numerous in New Zealand, as they are not only the most common plants as regards the number of the genera and species, but especially as regards the number of individuals of one and the same species: covering immense districts, they replace the Gramineae of other countries, and give a character to all the open land of hills and plains. Some of them grow to 30 feet and more in height; and the variety and elegance of their forms, from the most minute species to the giants of their kind, are astonishing. Although 94 species of ferns are already known, every day adds new treasures to our knowledge. There exist three tree-ferns, the Cyathea medullaris, dealbata, Dicksonia squarrosa. The Mahrattia elegans also assumes a tree-like appearance. The Cyathea dealbata is the highest; I measured some 40 feet in length. These trees generally grow in groups.

The genera of ferns which are found in New Zealand are--Amongst the Lycopodiaceae, the genera Tmesipteris (1 sp. ), Lycopodium (9); amongst the Filices, --Botry-chium(l), Ophioglossum (2), Gleichenia (2), Todea (1), Ligodium (1), Schizaea (2), Grammites (2), Polypodium (4), Niphobolus (2), Lomaria (6), Allantodia (1), Asple-nium (7), Caenopteris (1), Doodia (3), Pteris (9), Adiantum

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(3), Cheilanthus (2), Lindsaea (3), Loxoma (]), Dick-sonia (1), Aspidium (7), Nephrodium (2), Cyathea (2), Trichomanis (5), Hymenophyllum (13).

The number of MONOCOTYLEDONOUS or EXOGENOUS plants is very small in comparison with the cellular ones: there are 76 species. The grasses have given way to ferns. Near the coast I have never met with grass in any other way than in simple specimens. A little more I found in the fertile district of Kaitaia; and on the barren volcanic table-land in the interior a coarse wiry grass takes the place of the fern, -- a species, however, which does not gratify the eye with its verdure, as it has always a dirty yellowish colour. The want of the bright green of the grasses near the coast gives an extraordinary effect to artificially planted grasses, which indeed contrast singularly with the brown tint of the fern. The number of Gramineae, or grasses, which have been described is only 24, belonging to the genera Agrostis (9), Phalaris (I), Danthonia (1), Avena (1), Bromus (1), Schoenodorus (1), Triticum (2), Poa (3), Arundo (1), Pas-palum (1), Rottboellia (1), Spirifex (1), Torrena (1). It must, however, be observed, that some more exist, which have not yet been described.

If the useful Gramineae exist in such a small proportion, the useless, or almost useless, Cyperaceae, or Sedge tribe, are represented by an almost equal number--as many as 20 species. They are found especially on the sandy downs on the sea-shore, and in swampy and stagnant places. There are the following genera: --Cyperus (1), Fuirena (1), Trolepis (2), Scirpus (1), Vauthiera (1), Elaeocharis (2), Schoenus (1), Lepidosperma (1), Lampocarya (3). Gahnia (1), Morelotia (1), Uncinia (1), Carex (4).

The nearly-related Restiaceae and Junceae have also several representatives--Leptocarpus simplex, Luzula picta, Juncus maritimus, effusus, filiformis. The latter species covers large districts, hills and plains together, with a stunted fern and a Lycopodium: it is a sure indication of little depth of soil, and of a subsoil through which the water cannot percolate. Another genus belonging to the same family is Astelia,

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which is found everywhere near the banks of the rivers, in shady and moist or overflowed places, and is also frequently an epiphyte on trees.

The family of the Palmae is represented in New Zealand by the Areca sapida. In the deepest recesses of the forest the traveller enjoys the sight of this graceful tree, which grows throughout the island, and often to the height of 40 feet, and a foot in diameter. It is. a useful tree to the natives, who call it nikau, and use its large pinnate leaves for roofing their houses. The undeveloped plaited leaves, or the heart, are also eaten by them.

The nearly-related Asphodeleae have more species, and, as tree-ferns and the Areca palm give a character to the gloomy forest, so several members of that family are cha-racteristic for open alluvial ground, especially the genera Dracaena, Cordyline, and Phormium.

The Cordyline australis, or Dracaena australis, forms jungle on the alluvial banks of the rivers. The flax grows everywhere: a variety with yellow-striped leaves is scarce.

The plants belonging to the Asphodeleae are Arthropodium cirrhatum, Dianella intermedia, Dracaena indivisa, Cordyline australis, stricta, another undescribed species, and Phormium tenax.

A climbing plant is very common in the New Zealand forest, which winds from tree to tree, and often renders the path scarcely passable. This is the supplejack of the Europeans, kareao of the natives. It is a useful plant for the latter, as it serves to support the thatch-work of the houses. The New Zealand pigeon feeds especially upon its red berries. It belongs to the Smilaceae, and is the Ripogonum, parviflorum of R. Brown.

Of the Irideae of Jussieu, the genus Libertia has 3 species --grandiflora, ixioides, and micrantha.

The family of the Orchideae, of which so many species exist on the American continent and in Australia, has also several on New Zealand. The terrestrial Orchideae are Thelymitra Forsteri, Orthoceras strictum, Microtis Banksii, Acianthus rivularis, Pterostylis Banksii, Gastrodia sesa-

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moides. As epiphytae on trees grow Earina mucronata, Dendrobium Cunninghamii, and Bolbophyllum pygmaeum.

Of the Aroideae the natives cultivate the Caladium esculentum, which they call taro. According to their tales, it is not an indigenous plant, but their ancestors brought it with them at their first immigration.

The swamps of New Zealand are generally covered with the Typha angustifolia, which often also covers extensive districts of low ground, especially in the valley of the Thames. The same species is common to both hemispheres. Under the name of repo, or raupo, it is a most useful building-material to the natives, who form the walls and roofs of their houses with bundles of them, impenetrable to rain, which they tie together with the mangi-mangi, a climbing fern,, the Lygodium articulatum of Achille Richard. The natives also eat the root of the repo, which is somewhat amylaceous.

Amongst the climbing-plants which seek the support of larger trees, the principal one is the Freycinetia Banksii, also a monocotyledonous plant, belonging to the family of the Pandaneae of Robert Brown. It attaches itself principally to (he kahikatea-pine. It flowers in September; and the natives are very partial to the sweet bracteae of its blossoms.

The number of PHAENOGAMOUS or ENDOGENOUS plants is 314.

The Piperaceae. --Of these we have the Piper excelsum and the Peperomia Urvilleana. The former is the New Zealand representative of the Piper methisticum of the Sandwich and Tonga Islands: although bearing the same name-- kawa--it is not used by the New Zealanders to make an intoxicating drink: its leaves, however, form a good and apparently healthy substitute for tea. It grows everywhere throughout the island.

Of Coniferae and Taxideae 8 species have been described, and they give the most valuable timber. I have already mentioned in the course of this volume the geographical limits of the only cone-bearing pine, the valuable kauri, or Dammara Australis, which is confined to the extreme north of

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the northern island. To the south the totara and tanekaha prevail in many places, although it can scarcely be said that one species of pine ever forms a forest, as is the case on the old continent. The mai and the miro must be separated from the Taxideae into a peculiar genus, as the fleshy part of their seeds does not surround the seed in the shape of a cup, as it does in the true Taxideae, but they bear drupes. The kauri, the rimu, the kahikatea, " and the totara attain the greatest size, and are the most common; the kawaka and miro are scarce, and form only small trees. The native and scientific names of the pines are --

Kauri. . . Dammara Australis.
Tanekaha . . Phyllocladus trichomanoides.
Miro. . . Podocarpus ferruginea.
Totara. . . Podocarpus totara.
Mai.... Dacrydium mai.
Kawaka. . . Dacrydium plumosum.
Kakikatea . . Dacrydium excelsum.
Rimu. . . Dacrydium cupressinum.

I must here observe that there exist three more species of pines, of which one is called hutu by the natives, and is a Phyllocladus; another is a dwarf Dacrydium, on the Tongariro volcano; and the third, which I found on Mount Egmont, is apparently a Podocarpus.

The family of the Urticeae contains the genera Urtica (2 species), Elatostema (1), Hedycaria (2); and Cunningham also enumerates, from Banks's collection, the Brous-sonetia papyrifera, but which has not been seen again, and seems not to be an indigenous plant.

The following families contain the genera: --Labiatae (gen. Micromeria), Boragineae (gen. Anchusa and Myosotis), Convolvulaceae (gen. Calystigia, Ipomea, Dychondra), Gentianeae (gen. Gentiana, Sabaea), Loganieae (gen. Geniostoma), Apocyneae (Parsonia), Oleineae (Olea), Sapoteae (Achras), Myrsineae (Myrsine).

Of the extensive American family Epacrideae are four genera, of which especially Dracophyllum is very remark-

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able. The genera are Cyathodes, Leucopogon (2 species), Pentachondra (1), Epacris (1), Dracophyllum (5).

Of Ericeae we have the genus Gaultheria (3 species), also extensively spread in New South Wales.

Campanulaceae--Wahlenbergia (1), Lobelia (5).

Styllideae--(gen. Styllidium, Forstera).

Goodenoviae--(gen. Goodenia, Scaevola).

Of Compositae are the following tribes and genera: -- 1. Cichoraeae (gen. Scorzonera, Sonchus, Picris). 2. Vernoniaceae (Shawia). 3. Asteroideae (Solidago, Lageno-phora, Aster, Haxtonia, Vittaclinia). 4. Senecionideae (gen. Bidens, Cotula, Myriogyne, Soliva, Craspedia, Cassinia, Ozothamnus, Helichrysum, Gnaphalium, Arnica, Senecio, Brachyglottis).

Of Rubiaceae exist the genera Opercularia, Galium, Coprosma, Ronabea, Nertepa, Geophila, Viscum, Loran-thus.

Of Coneae--gen. Alseuosmia.

The Umbelliferae contain the genera Hydrocotyle, Petro-selinum, Ligusticum, Peucedanum, Apium.

The Araliaceae, spread especially in South America, are a remarkable family. They contain in New Zealand the genera Panax, Cussonia, Polyscias, and Aralia. The latter contains two species, the Aralia Scheffleri and crassifolia, whose peculiar forms never fail to strike the traveller, especially in the shady forests of the east coast.

Of Oxalideae--gen. Oxalis (9 species).

Of Geraniaceae--gen. Geranium (2), Pelargonium (1).

Of Hypericineae--gen. Hypericum.

Of Meliaceae--gen. Hartighsia (1).

Of Sapindaceae--the Aledryon excelsum, the berries of which are used for making oil. Dodoneae (1).

Of Bombaceae, the Hoheria populnea.

Of Tiliaceae--Entelia (, 1).

Of Eleocarpeae--Eleocarpus (1), and Friesia (1).

Of Sterculiaceae--gen. Plagianthus (3).

Of Malvaceae--Hibiscus (1).

Of Lineae--Linum (1).

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Of Caryophylleae--Arenaria. (1), Stellaria (1). Of Elatineae--Elatine (1). Of Pittosporeae--Pittosporum (9). Of Droseraceae--Drosera (2). Of Violarieae--Erpetion (1). Of Flacourtianeae--Melicytus (2).

Of Cruciferae--gen. Nasturtium (1), Cardamine (1), Alyssum (1), Lepidium (1). Of Magnoliaceae--Dryrnis (1). Of Ranunculaceae--Ranunculus (5), Clematis (3). Of Corynocarpeae--a genus related to the Myrsineis, Corynocarpus laevigata.

Of Griselineae--Griselinea (1).

Of Saxifrageae we have the Quintina serrata; 3 species of Weinmannia; gen. Aikama, and Leiospermum, of which the species racemosum is a good-sized tree, which forms extensive forests all over New Zealand.

Of Crassulaceae--the gen. Tillaea.

Amongst the Ficoideae there exists, besides one species of the genus Mesembryanthemum, the Tetragonia expansa, or New Zealand spinach, which, however, in the northern island is very rare.

Of Passifloraceae exists the Passiflora tetrandra.

Of Cucurbitaceae--the Sicyos Australis. Of Halorageae--the gen. Cercodia (3), Goniocorpus (3), Myriophyllum (1).

Of Onagrarieae--the Fuchsia (2), and the Epilobium (18).

The family of the Myrtaceae, although less numerous in genera, yet possesses some of a very extensive distribution, and others form some of the most beautiful and also most useful trees existing. The genera are Leptospermum (2), Metrosideros (9), Eugenia (1), Myrtus bullata, --the latter also common to Chilian forests.

Of Rosaceae, the Acoena sanguisorba is common to New Zealand and Van Diemen's Land, besides three species of Rubus.

The extensive family of the Leguminosae has three genera

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which are quite peculiar to New Zealand; these are Edwardsia, Clianthus, and Carmichaelia.

The family of the Rhamneae has the genera Cardopetus, Pennantia, Pomaderris, Corokia, Ixerba.

That of the Coriarieae--the Coriaria sarmentosa, a very common shrub, the leaves of which contain an acrid poison, and often produce violent symptoms if eaten by cattle.

The family of the Rutaceae has the genus Melicope (2 species).

Of Euphorbiaceae, the Euphorbia glauca grows amongst the shingle of the sea-shore and on barren hills.

Of Santalaceae, the genus Myda is represented by three species.

Amongst the Thymelaeae, Jussieu, the genus Pimelea has six species, mostly shrubs.

Of the Proteaceae, the Tora (Persoonia tora) and Rewarewa (Knightia excelsa) are the only known species. The latter yields a very beautiful wood, and with its dark-purple flowers would be a very ornamental tree. It is the New Zealand representative of the Banksias, of which such a variety of species are known in New South Wales.

To the Laurineae belong two trees, which are very common in some parts of the island. The Laurus tarairi and calicaris are especially found to the northward, around Waimate and Kaitaia, where they form groves on the banks of rivers. The Laurus tawa covers the upper regions of dry hills in Cook's Straits, especially on the Tararua mountains at Port Nicholson, where it forms continuous forests.

Of the Atherospermeae, the Laurelia Nov. Zeland. grows likewise in the northern island, forming a moderate tree.

Of the Polygoneae we have the genera Polygonum (3) and Rumex (2).

Of the Chenopodieae--the genera Chenopodium (1) and Salicornia (1).

Of Amaranthaceae--the Alternanthia denticulata.

Of Peronychicae--the Mniarum biflorum.

Of Plantagineae--the Plantago major and varia.

Of Primulaceae--the Anagallis arvensis and Samolus litoralis.

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Of Scrophularineae, the genus Veronica has as many as 9 species. Some of them, peculiar to New Zealand, form shrubs, and bear very beautiful flowers. To the same family also belong the Gratiola sexdentata and Euphrasia cuneata. Amongst the plants found by me on Mount Egmont is a new species of the genus Ourisia (fam. Scrophularineae), not yet described (Sir William Hooker).

Of Cyrtandraceae, is the Rhabdothamnus Solandri.

Of Solaneae, the berries of the Solanum laciniatum are eaten by the natives, and its leaves used as cataplasms for ulcers. They also eat the leaves of another small species of the same genus.

Of Myoporineae, the Avicennia tomentosa is the Mangrove of New Zealand, covering the shallow inlets in the northern part of the North Island.

Of Verbenaceae (same order as the teak), the Vitex litto-ralis is the Puriri of the natives and the New Zealand oak of the colonists. Its quality of splitting renders it an excellent wood for firing.


London: Printed by WILLIAM CLOWES and SONS, Stamford Street.

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