Tuatara: Volume 11, Issue 2, June 1963
Solander — His Influence — On New Zealand Botany
Solander — His Influence
On New Zealand Botany
‘To the memory of Daniel Carl Solander, F.R.S.
So runs the dedication to Allan's 1961 Flora of New Zealand. But why Solander? Why not Forster, Robert Brown. Cunningham, Hooker, Kirk, Cheeseman? — all have left their mark and more upon the Flora. Cheeseman himself supplies the answer in the oft quoted preface to the 1906 Manual (p.v.) ‘Every botanist who prepares a Flora starts from the standpoint reached by his predecessors in the same field’.
Solander had no predecessors — his was a virgin field. He had it is true the Species Plantarum at his hand. He had the advantage of personal tuition by Linnaeus. He had wide experience of botanical matters in Europe and in England, and he had, during 1769, botanised briefly in South America and Tierra del Fuego, and extensively in Tahiti. He was in fact a first class professional botanist. He had been offered the Chair of Botany in the Petersburg Academy of Sciences, was a fellow of the Royal Society and on the staff of the British Museum. He had also two very able colleagues — Banks, himself no mean botanist, with his vigorous intelligence, his youthful enthusiasm and his very necessary money — and Parkinson, with his technical skill and devotion. And in the background the master mariner Cook, who had brought them there and would take them home. The presence of Tupaia too was providential. To be able to discuss the native names and uses of the plants collected, with the people who had lived among them for centuries was invaluable. Solander's Pohutukawa and Kowhai — his modus praeparandi, are echoed unaltered 200 years later in the Floras of today. These things were in his favour. But against him was the very limited time ashore and the almost total strangeness of the vegetation he was studying.
This paper is based upon the typed copy of the Solander manuscript in the Auckland Museum. I am indebted to Dr. R. C. Cooper for permission to study and make notes from it.
Dendrobium cunninghamii Lindl. (Epidendrum pendulum Sol. ined.) Mscr. p. 1349, typescript p. 167. Engraved from an original unpublished drawing by Sydney Parkinson. By permission of the Director, Dominion Museum.
Banks said of it (Beaglehole 2 : 1962, p. 9) ‘Sow thistle, garden nightshade, and perhaps one or two kinds of grasses were exactly the same as in England, three or four kinds of fern the same as those of the West Indies, and a plant or two that are common to almost all the world; these were all that had before been described by any botanist out of about 400 species, except five or six which we ourselves had before seen in Terra del Fuego’.
The Primitiae Florae is of necessity a coastal Flora and the shadow of the Endeavour hangs over it. Much of the botanising was done during wooding and watering, fishing, shooting and surveying trips, and was subject to the exigencies of service. The Maori comes into it too. His clothes and cultivations, his ornaments and his children, and many of his plant names. The few errors are more interesting than otherwise — one in particular, Avicennia resinijera. Cook (Beaglehole 1 : 1955, p. 204) says —‘ … in speaking of Mercury Bay I forgot to mention that the Mangrove trees found there produce a resinous substance … we found it at first in small lumps upon the sea beach, but afterwards found it sticking to the Mangrove trees and by that means found out from whence it came.’ The resin was the familiar Kauri gum and it was not produced by the Mangrove. The name though misleading, was perpetuated by Geo. Forster and having priority has stuck — like the gum it commemorates.
This first Flora was a major event in the botanical history of New Zealand, although it was never published. Its importance is emphasised by the number of Solander's names which were taken up by later botanists and his skill by the fact that 123 plants still belong in the genera in which he originally placed them. The near misses are revelant too. Smilax, Pandanus, Piper, Fagus, Panax, Aralia, Veronica, Myrtus, Mesembryanthemum, Passiflora, etc., are but further proof of his knowledge.
To read Solander for the first time is to experience a feeling of familiarity — one has trodden this path before. In spite of the Latin and the odd quirks of the Linnean system, this collibus et campis is home sweet home. His descriptions have a modern ring about them and his locality-habitat notes a photographic clarity.
For example :—
Avicennia resinifera — ad latera limosa fluviorum lacuum solsorum. Disphyma australe — copiose juxta littora marina praecipue, in fissuris rupium.
Lycopodium billardieri — in sylvis … in arboribus parasitica dependens.
Entelea arborescens — ad latera vallium et ubi sylvae incipiunt. and of Leptospermum simply — ubique et copiose.
Odd words stand out here and there — Paesia scaberula — elegantissima and Phormium tenax — utilitissima, which tell more than pages of prose.page 69
That the work had so profound an influence on subsequent Floras of New Zealand was due partly to Banks' place in the scientific world and to his generosity in allowing the collections to be studied by those interested, and partly to his choice of secretaries. First Solander, then Dryander and finally Robert Brown, who after Banks' death in 1820 took the botanical material and the manuscripts and Parkinson's drawings, together with the prepared copperplates, into the British Museum where they continued to be available for research. That Geo. Forster had access to them is obvious from the number of Solander's names he uses, often without acknowledgment. Allan Cunningham knew them too and Hooker makes frequent reference to the ‘excellent manuscript descriptions’. The British Museum sent out a typed copy of the New Zealand section of the manuscript, a run of prints from the copperplates and a series of the original specimens. These were studied by Thomas Kirk for the Students' Flora of 1899 and were handed over to Cheeseman who used them while preparing the 1906 Manual. They are still preserved in the Auckland Museum and are the basis of these notes. Cheeseman says ‘of their scientific value I cannot speak too highly’. I believe there is a photostat copy of the original manuscript and another set of drawings in the Dominion Museum and in the Turnbull Library. The whole of the ‘Banks and Solander’ material was studied by H. H. Allan for the 1961 Flora. All these botanists quote Solander freely and with respect.
Sydney Parkinson's drawings are invaluable. They are works of art in themselves and most of them were done — in part at least — on the spot and add a definite note to identification.
205 Fig. Pict. are listed and there exist several others. One which interests me is an unfinished but recognisable sketch of Earina autumnalis which is not otherwise mentioned in the typescript. Another plant left out by Solander is the Taro (Colocasia), which is however recorded several times in Banks' journal as a food plant cultivated by the Maori. The plants he does list as cultivated are :—
Sonchus oleraceus — in graminosis et cultis.
Broussonetia papyrifera — culta in septentrionali parte Nov. Zel. sed rara.
Lagenaria vulgaris — forte culta utensilaria varia e hupis fructo formant incolae.
Discorea sativa — culta. Ipornoea batata — culta.
Solander's Maori names are sometimes amazingly accurate. His Kawakawa, Kowhai, Mahoe, Manawa, Manuka, Ngaio, Piripiri, Pohutukawa, Poroporo, Tawa, Ti, Tutu, appear as they do today. Several others are recognisable though mis-spelt by modern standards — Karaka (Chalacha), Karamu (Charamugh), Kiekie (Geagea), Kumara (Kumala), Ramarama (Lamalama), page 70 Rangiora (Rangiola), Mangeo (Tangeo), and Kowhai ngutu kaka (Kowhai no tugaga). There are as many again that are meaningless to me. One name is worth comment. He uses Kowhai for Sophora tetraptera, and Kowhai maori for S. microphylla. The word ‘maori’ I believe, originally meant normal or ordinary. The Kowhai maori was then the common or garden variety of Kowhai found along the coast as distinct from the larger S. tetraptera which is less frequent.
There are 349 names in the typescript. Of these 15 were not identified by Cheeseman — 12 ferns and 3 Cyperaceae. The remainder fall conveniently into four groups :—
(i) In the current Floras (Cheeseman, 1925, for the Monocotyledones, Allan, 1961. for the remainder) 49 names read exactly as Solander wrote them. Of these specific names 45 originated with Solander, 4 with Linnaeus. Of the 35 genera, 28 are Linnean and 7 by Solander. The 7 are Astelia, Dacrydium, Metrosideros, Nertera, Pimelea and Pittosporum. Familiar plants in this group are — Arundo conspicua, Asplenium lucidum, Astelia nervosa, Avicennia resinifera, Clianthus puniceus, Dacrydium cupressinum, Linum monogynum, Metrosideros excelsa, Nertera depressa, Pimelea longifolia, Pittosporum crassifolium, P. tenuifolium, Pteris tremula, Ranunculus hirtus, Rubus australis, Salicornia australis, Scirpus frondosus, Senecio lautus, Sophora microphylla, S. tetraptera, Tetragonia trigyna, Trichomanes reniforme and Weinmannia sylvicola.
(ii) 40 plants bear the specific or varietal name given by Solander or derived therefrom, but the genus has been changed. Included are — Alectryon excelsum, Ascarina lucida, Blechnum discolor, Bulbophyllum pygmaeum, Carpodetus serratus, Celmisia gracilenta, Coprosma acerosa, Cordyline australis, Disphyma australe, Dracophyllum longifolium, Earina mucronata, Elatostema rugosa, Griselinia lucida, Haloragis erecta, H. procumbens, Hebe macrocarpa, H. pubescens, Hymenophyllum dilatatum, H. sanguinolentum, Litsaea calicaris, Lophomyrtus bullata, Luzula campestris, Neopanax arboreum, Nothofagus fusca, Pellaea rotundifolia, Phormium tenax, Pittosporum umbellatum, Pseudopanax crassifolium, Rhopalostylis sapida, Sarcochilus adversus, Schoenus tendo, and Tetrapathaea tetrandra.
(iii) 74 plants were placed by Solander in the genera to which they still belong, although the specific names have changed. 45 genera, 41 of them Linnean, 4 by Solander. They include species in genera like — Adiantum, Arundo, Asplenium, Astelia, Carex, Clematis, Coriaria, Drosera, Elaeocarpus, Epilobium, Gaultheria, Gnaphalium, Hydrocotyle, Juncus, Lepidium, Lobelia, Lycopodium, Myoporum, Myosotis, Plantago, Samolus, Scirpus, Senecio, Solanum, Tillaea, Trichomanes and Urtica.page 71
(iv) A further 186 plants were described but the names were never taken up. The group includes Acaena, Aciphylla, Aristotelia, Arthropodium, Beilschmedia, Brachyglottis, Carmichaelia, Corynocarpus, Cyathea, Dendrobium, Discaria, Dysoxylum, Entelea, Freycinetia, Fuchsia, Geniostoma, Hedycarya, Hoheria, Ipomoea, Knightia, Lagenaria, Leptospermum, Macropiper, Melicope, Melicytus, Microtis, Myrsine, Olearia, Orthoceras, Paesia, Plagianthus, Podocarpus, Pomaderris, Pterostylis, Rhabdothamnus, Rhipogonum, Schefflera, Thelymitra, Uncinia, Vitex, Wahlenbergia and many more besides.
Two names show transposition — Senecio perdicioides was written Perdicium senecioides by Solander, and Lagenaria vulgaris was called Cucurbita lagenaria.
Cheeseman considered 6 species to be duplicated —
Calystegia tuguriorum (Convolvulus lacteus — C. versatilis).
Carex forsteri (C. debilis — C. latifolia).
Geranium pilosum (G. pilosum — G. patulum).
Gnaphalium involucratum (G. involucratum — G. collinum).
Penantia corymbosa (Meristoides paniculata — Fagoides triloba).
Podocarpus dacrydioides (Dacrydium thujoides — Lycopodium arboreum).
A number of Parkinson's drawings have been published from time to time. I am aware of eight books and papers (there may be others) containing them. Twenty-nine plants are illustrated.
- Beaglehole, J. C., 1955. Journals of Jas. Cook, Vol. 1. Beaglehole, J. C., 1962. Journal of Joseph Banks, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2.
- Brooker and Cooper, 1961. N.Z. Medicinal Plants.
- Hatch, E.D., 1952. Trans R.S.N.Z., Vol. 79, N.Z. Thelymitra.
- Morrell, W. P., 1958. Joseph Banks in N.Z.
- Oliver, W. R. B., 1958. School Bull., 5:‡2. Botanical Discovery in N.Z.
- Simpson, Geo., 1945. Trans. R.S.N.Z., Vol. 75, N.Z. Carmichaelia.
The 349 species collected and described by Solander in New Zealand are contained in 206 genera and (counting the Filicopsida as a single family) 86 families. Of the genera 130 belong to the Dicotyledones, 48 to the Monocotyledones, 25 to the Filicopsida, 2 to the Coniferae and 1 to the Lycopodiaceae.
When it is remembered that manuscript Floras were prepared also for Tierra del Fuego, Tahiti and the eastern coast of Australia, and that each of them was as coherent as the New Zealand section, and that he wrote in addition on the marine and bird life encountered on the voyage, the genius of the man shines forth, and we begin to understand why the present Flora of New Zealand is dedicated to the Swedish Doctor from the University of Uppsala. Well might Linnaeus write of the ‘immortal Banks and Solander’.