Tuatara: Volume 19, Issue 2, May 1972
James Adams, an Early New Zealand Botanist
James Adams, an Early New Zealand Botanist
Immediately the rugged bush-clad hills of the Coromandel Peninsula claimed his interest and he followed Thomas Kirk's account of the botany of the Thames goldfields with his own observations published in the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute in 1883. During the years 1881, 1882 and 1883, often with his eldest son, Ernest, then a surveying cadet under Percy Smith in Auckland, he climbed many of the high peaks on the peninsula — Table Mountain (Whakairi), Kaitarakihi and Maumaupuki amongst them — and crossed the peninsula to Mercury Bay and Tairua. Two notable plant finds were Celmisia adamsii from the crags of Table Mountain and Castle Rock and Elytranthe adamsii from the Hape Creek above the township of Thames (then consisting of two settlements, Shortland and Grahamstown, collectively called ‘the Thames’).
It seems that Cheeseman and Adams had a plan to visit all the isolated high hills in the Auckland district and together or separately they carried this out over a number of years. Pirongia in 1879, the peaks south of Coromandel between 1880 and 1883, Te Aroha, 1884, were those that Adams visited. The most significant discovery came in January, 1888, when with his son, Ernest, then surveying near Cabbage Bay, he climbed to the high peak of Te Moehau, the most page 55 northern and highest point of the Colville range. Here they found an area of mountain vegetation including such unexpected species as Celmisia incana, Podocarpus nivalis, Pentachondra pumila, Carpha alpina and Ourisia.
Other botanical trips were made to various parts of New Zealand — the Mt. Arthur Plateau with Cheeseman and Meyrick the entomologist in January, 1886; Mt. Hikurangi and the east coast with Petrie in January, 1897 (on this trip they were accompanied by J. Lee, a teacher from the Native School near Hicks Bay and two Maoris, Winiata and Morgan); North Cape with Cheeseman in 1895; and the Mt. Cook district and Lake Tekapo with Cheeseman in January, 1898. Herbarium specimens show that he also visited the Volcanic Plateau, Mt. Egmont and Castle Hill, Canterbury, but no field notes for these trips remain.
James Adams remained in Thames where his family of nine children enjoyed the freedom of the sometimes rough and ready mining town and the pleasures of swimming and boating on the coast and bush excursions with their father. It gave him great pleasure when his eldest son, E. F. Adams, married the daughter of his friend, J. W. Hall, an early resident of the Thames after whom Podocarpus halli Kirk is named. Hall exchanged seeds of native trees with friends in Britain over many years including the Dorrien-Smith family of Tresco in Cornwall where many New Zealand plants flourish. His own arboretum of native and exotic trees remains in part amongst a new housing estate on the hillside above the south end of Thames (see Trans. N.Z. Inst. 34, p. 388).page 56
In 1906 James Adams died suddenly whilst still the headmaster of the high school and is buried in the Tararu Cemetery, Thames. He lived to see many of his ideas on the practical teaching of science generally adopted but not to enjoy Cheeseman's Manual of the New Zealand Flora for which all of his own botanical observations and collections had been made in the hope of assisting his friend. His small herbarium was presented to the Auckland Institute and Museum but because, it is said, a well-meaning daughter tidied away many scribbled notes and labels, the specimens have been left with fewer details than he would have provided. With the herbarium are some field notebooks covering some of his Thames collecting trips, and the Mt. Arthur, Mt. Hikurangi and Mt. Cook expeditions; regrettably the remainder have been lost.
|On Early Instruction||Trans. N.Z. Inst. 7, 145|
|Elements of Mathematics||Trans. N.Z. Inst. 9, 304|
|Polynesia||Trans. N.Z. Inst. 9, 44|
|Botany of the Thames Goldfields||Trans. N.Z. Inst. 16, 385|
|Botany of Te Aroha Mountain||Trans. N.Z. Inst. 17, 275|
|Land Mollusca of the Thames Goldfields||Trans. N.Z. Inst. 19, 177|
|Botany of Te Moehau Mountain||Trans. N.Z. Inst. 21, 32|
|School-teaching||Trans. N.Z. Inst. 26, 452|
|Botany of Hikurangi Mountain||Trans. N.Z. Inst. 30, 414|