Tuatara: Volume 24, Issue 2, August 1980
The Botanical Excursions of B. C. Aston
The Botanical Excursions of B. C. Aston
Bernard Cracroft Aston was born at Beckenham, Kent, on August 9, 1871, the eldest of the six children of Mr and Mrs Murray Aston. His parents with their four sons and two daughters eventually settled in Dunedin in the seaside suburb of St Leonards, a pleasant bay of the Otago Harbour backed by steep grassy hills with pockets of bush in the gullies. At the family home on the main road to Port Chalmers young Aston commenced gardening with native plants, an interest that continued throughout his life. Several of his early specimens note that the plants, although collected elsewhere, were brought to flower or fruit in the garden at St Leonards.
The high hills in the vicinity of Dunedin and of the Otago Peninsula were within easy reach of an indefatigable walker as Aston. Some excursions further afield to Central Otago, Southland and Stewart Island appear to coincide with summer and Easter holidays, others may have been in the course of his employment as a chemist to the Milburn Lime and Cement Company. He moved to Wellington in 1899 to take up a position with the Department of Agriculture where his distinguished career in Agricultural Chemistry began.
As his published papers show, his botanical interests widened and the lengthy exploratory trips he made into the Tararua, Ruahine and Kaimanawa ranges, and later to the Marlborough mountains provided opportunities for him to make plant collections. He also visited the Subantarctic islands twice and made many trips to all parts of New Zealand whilst investigating various agricultural problems. Later his interests turned more to horticulture and, until his death on May 31, 1951, his hillside garden at 26 Espin Crescent in the Wellington suburb of Karori provided pleasure to him and his many friends and was a source of study material of many unusual and uncommon native plants.
Fig. 1: Examples of Aston's handwriting: Upper, 1897; middle left — label from Aston's herbarium; middle right — numbered series from the private herbarium of T. Kirk; lower — letter of October 1950.
Aston's name has been commemorated in the following — genera Coprosma, Muehlenbeckia, Epilobium, Hebe, Carmichaelia, Gentiana, Myosotis, Uncinia, and Poa.
I The Herbarium
Little has been mentioned in the botanical literature concerning Aston's herbarium that was presented during his lifetime (1920-21), to the Dominion Museum, now the National Museum (WELT). Unfortunately these specimens were incorporated piecemeal, often without attribution to Aston. Only those familiar with his distinctive handwriting have recognised their source.
In Thomas Kirk's ‘private’ herbarium received in 1931 from Professor H. B. Kirk, some of Aston's earliest collections have recently been discovered. Because Kirk's ‘private’ herbarium was thought to contain mainly duplicate material, parts of it have remained untouched since Kirk's death in 1898. Within several of these unopened packages suites of Aston's specimens bearing numbered labels were found. This contribution of about 400 specimens parallels that of Kirk's other correspondents in various parts of New Zealand, undoubtedly made in order to provide him with information about native and introduced plants for the Student's Flora of New Zealand. Aston appears to have supplied Otago and Southland material after Donald Petrie moved to Auckland in 1894.
A recent effort to complete the numbering and cataloguing of the indigenous plants in WELT has given us an opportunity to mark all Aston's specimens as ‘Herb. B. C. Aston’ and to make an inventory of the numbered series he sent to Kirk — a list that is as yet incomplete. From these sources it has been possible to compile an itinerary of Aston's botanical excursions from 1894 until the 1920's when his collecting became sporadic. Obvious mistakes occur in times and places given on his herbarium labels. Because Aston's writing (Fig. 1) is often difficult to decipher, frequent errors of transcription have been made. Specimens in the Petrie Herbarium collected by Aston appear to have been subject to the inconsistencies noted by Hamlin (Hamlin, 1958) that occurred when Petrie, at an advanced age, undertook the re-labelling of his large herbarium. It seems also that some material in the Aston herbarium was collected by colleagues unnamed on the labels, often A. Morris Jones, and in several instances by his brothers. For example, ‘Table Hill, Stewart Is., Jan. 1911, Cyril’. At that time Aston was in the Ruahine-Kaimanawa area, but the initials B.C.A. have been pencilled on the label by W. R. B. Oliver. The dates on the specimens collected on his nine trips to the Tararuas from 1906 to 1910 are particularly confused. Therefore it seems best page 52 to quote directly from Aston's own account (Aston, 1910) where he lists the trips in chronological order.
Aston's field notebooks (WELT) recording the vegetation and soil samples taken, daily memoranda of expenses, provisions and places visited, have served to explain and expand the otherwise inconclusive data gleaned from the herbarium labels alone.
II The Itinerary
January 21 Dunedin.
November 9 North Otago Heads. 25 St Leonards Waterfall. 27 Flagstaff. 29 and 30 Flagstaff.
December 1 Ocean Beach, Otago Peninsula. 24 Green Is., Peninsula. 27 Hoopers Inlet. 28 Flagstaff. 29 St Leonards.
January 3 Sandymount, Otago Peninsula. 26 Black Head.
February 11 St Leonards. 16 Pelichet Bay. 18 Mt Cargill.
March 9 Signal Hill.
October 19 St Leonards.
November 9-10 Top of Blue Mountains, Tapanui.
December 1 Reservoir, Dunedin. 11 Signal Hill. 14 Flagstaff; Waikari Creek. 15 Waikari Creek. 25 Bluff Hill. 27 Glory Cove, Ocean Beach and the Old Neck, Stewart Is. 30 Ryans Creek, Paterson Inlet.
January 1 Sydney Cove, Ulva and S.W. Arm, Paterson Inlet. 3 Moses Beach. 5 Akers Point. 6 Akers Point; Moses Beach, Stewart Is. 16 Mihiwaka, Otago. 20 Lumsden. 26 Mihiwaka, Port Chalmers; Waterworks, Dunedin.
February 1 McLaren's paddock, St Clair; Black Head. 2 Flagstaff. Kaikai Beach and North Heads, Otago Harbour. 16 Maungatua. 18 Maungatua. 19 Wycliffe. 29 Tomahawk.
March 7 Mihiwaka. 8 Wycliffe Bay. 29 Mt Cargill. Undated — Otago Heads; Maungatua.
October Awarua Siding near Bluff.
November 6 Te Anau. 16 Te Anau. 17 Croydon Bush near Gore; Lumsden. 22 Winton. 25 Te Anau. 26 Awarua.
December 11 Waikari Creek. 15, 16 Maungatua. 25 Maungatua.
January 1 Lowther, swamp behind Lowther Hotel; Lumsden Kingston line. 2 Kingston. 6 Victoria Bridge. 7, 8 Cromwell. 9 Lowburn. 10 Queensberry. 14 Shores of Lake Wanaka near Pembroke (Wanaka township). 15 Skippers Creek, Queenstown. 17 Ben Lomond.
March 23 Old Waipori Road; Maungatua near Trig Station.
April 16 North Heads, Otago Harbour. 17 Whare Flat. 19 Devils Staircase. 23 Kaikorai Bush; Pelichet Bay. 27 Blue Spur, Lawrence. 29 Roxburgh Hills.
May 15 Colac Bay; Wairau Ferry. 16 Winton. 17 Wairau Ferry island. 19 Fortrose; Wairau Ferry.
June Black Jack's Point near Pelichet Bay. Whisky Gully near Tapanui.
November 14 St Leonards. 15 Fortrose. 25 Head of Lake Te Anau. Undated — Takitimu Mountains.
December Near Kyeburn Pass Hotel;. Upper Kyeburn; Mt Kyeburn; Mt St Bathans; Naseby.
January Naseby; Mt St Bathans; Eweburn; Maniototo; Rock and Pillar; Wyndham-Fortrose; Waikawa; Bluff Hill.
February Lumsden; Bullendale; Skippers Creek; Bold Peak, 6,000 ft.page 53
May 1 Aston was appointed Chemist to the Department of Agriculture, Wellington.
February Undated — near Wellington; Mt Egmont; ‘The ascended Mount Egmont to the summit by the Inglewood on the 14th February, 1901 and again on the 20th March,
February Mt Egmont. [1901?]
November Mr Mantell's garden, Wellington.
January 31 Otaki Gorge. Aston visited Britain, Canada, United States and Australia in 1903.
December Te Kuiti; Lake Papaitonga (Levin).
January Wainui-o-mata mouth (Wellington south coast).
March Upper Hutt.
December Halfmoon Bay. 24 Devon Street, Wellington. at this time lived at 71 Devon Street, Kelburn.
January Pleasant River, Waikouaiti; Botanical Gardens, Wton. 28-31 A three-day trip to Mt Holdsworth with Profe Easterfield, Dr L. Cockayne and Mr A. H. Cockayno. Turakirae (1906 or 1908).
February Hutt Gorge; Kaitoke; Days Bay; Muritai.
March Wiltons Bush; Wellington Botanical Gardens.
June Lake Wakare, Waikato; Waerenga.
October 27 Happy Valley, Wellington.
November Bluff Hill. 11 St Clair.
December Muritai; South Karon; Terawhiti; Tararuas, ‘a th days solitary ramble to Mt Dennan and the Otaki Gorgo’, Idab
February 23 Days Bay. Undated — Sinclair Head; Orongorong Moores Valley; Wellington.
March ‘A three days journey on Mt Holdsworth with Mess G. de S. Baylis and Turners (two).’ Kaitoke; Crofton; Days Bay. Dunedin; Brighton bluffs; Maungatua; Outram; Gimmorbu, Mt Ida; Alexandra; Clinton.
August Tongue Point; Wellington coast.
May St Clair.
October Palliser Bay; Cape Turakirae; Muritai; Gollans Valley, Moores Valley hut; Naenae.
November 14 Bluff, departed on the Government steame ‘Hinemoa’ on the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury Expedition to the Subantarctic Islands. 14 Port Pegasus, 15 Snares Is 16 Auckland Is. — Port Ross and Carnley Harbour. 17 Camp Cove, Carnley Harbour. 18 Adams Is. 19 Adams Is. return to Camp Cove. 20 Camp Cove to head of North Arm, Carnley Harbour. 21 North Arm to west coast cliffs and Flat Topped Mountain. 22 return to Camp Cove. 24 Masked Is. and hills above Camp Cove. 25 Adams Is. 26 Skua Gull Flat, Carnley Harbour and to Norman Inlet. 27 Norman Inlet and to Enderby Is. 28 Disappointment Is. and return to Port Ross. 29 Port Ross near depot. 30 Arrived at Bluff in the afternoon (Godley, 1979).
December Palliser Bay; Little Mukumuku; Lake Ferry. 26 To Kaitoke with A. M. Jones and W. B. Aston, crossing the Tararuas from Pakuratahi to Otaki. 27 Pakuratahi junction camp. 28 To Quoin, 29 Mt Alpha, Mt Hector, Mt Dennan. 30 Table Top, Forks camp at confluence of Waiotauru and Otaki Rivers.page 54
January 12 Swampy Hill. 15 Mt Holdsworth — three days on Mt Holdsworth with D. Petrie and J. S. Tennant. Undated — Mangatiritiri River; Lake Wairarapa; Lake Onoke; Lake Ferry; Palliser Bay; Little Mukumuku; Porirua Bush; Twelve Mile Bush, Greymouth.
February Open Bay Is., Westland; Spooner Range, Nelson; Picton; Titahi Bay; Stratford; Thames; Karangahake Gorge near Paeroa; Aston may also have visited Te Aroha at this time. Kaitoke.
March Hutt Gorge; Porirua Bush; Titahi Bay; Mornington, Dunedin, at Mr Matthew's garden; North Otago Heads.
October Waerenga, Waikato; State Farm Bush, Levin.
November 9 Makara Beach. 15 Seatoun. 11 Terawhiti. Undated — Waiheke (?); examined plots at Stratford, Hawera, Marton, Bulls, Makino near Feilding and Kimbolton. 29-30 Hutt Gorge to Quoin with Mr John Chilwell.
December Wallaceville; Makino, Feilding; Levin sea beach; State Farm bush, Levin. 25-30 Maniototo County. 25 Patearoa; above Eweburn township; Ida Valley; Mt Ida; Ranfurly. 29 Rock and Pillar Range. 30 Middlemarch. 31 Ocean Beach, Bluff.
January 1 Bluff bush near freezing works, reservoir track, Signal Hill Station and along shore. 3 Wards Parade. 4 Lowland opposite Bluff. Sailed from Bluff to the Subantarctic Islands on the Government steamer ‘Hinemoa’. 8 Enderby Is., Port Ross. 9 Disappointment Is. 10 Carnley Harbour. 12 N.E. Harbour, Campbell Is. Undated — Antipodes Is.; Bounties Is.; Normans Inlet. 28 Tiwai Point. Undated — Open Bay Is., Jacksons Bay.
February Anita Bay; Milford Sound; West Coast Sounds.
March North Heads, Dunedin.
April Easter, partial ascent of Mt Dennan with Messrs C. O'Connor and Simmons.
June Quoin with E. Phillips Turner.
August 28 Happy Valley, Wellington.
October Mt Owen.
November 13 Rongoroa. 21 Kaitoke.
December 2 Westport.
January Tauherenikau Valley.
February 12 Crossed from Kaitoke to the Otaki Gorge with W. H. Field and L. Phillips of Kaitoke.
March Wellington. 20 Mt Egmont.
January Kaimanawas, ‘A week spent in these mountains with Mr J. S. Tennant.’ (Aston, 1914) Waikakahi River; Kokokerenga; Waiouru Plain; Ngauruhoe; Waipahi. The photograph (Fig. 2) of a survey party on Mt Dundas is the only record of Aston's visit to the Tararuas in this month, it is unconfirmed by plant collections.
March Mt Hector.
April 9 Seatoun.
October 22 Rangitoto Is.
January Paraparaumu; Kapiti Is.; Gull Is., Kapiti; Taumarunui.
February 2 Orongorongo River with D. Petrie.
December Rainbow Mountain. 12 Kaiangaroa Plains.
March 13 Mamuku farm bush. 14-15 Rotorua. Undated — Otira.
April 12 ‘Three days trip to Makaretu and Umutoi with Mr Frank Hutchinson Jnr of Rissington’ (Aston, 1914). 14 Dannevirke. 17 Bishops Bush; Wangehu River bank near Nortons: page 55
September 14 and/or 15 Mt Tarawera. 27-28 Horoeka Road, Weber; Bishops Bush. 30 Norton's, Towai Road; Mangatoro Road, Pahiatua.
October Ruakura State Farm; Hauraki Plains; Thames Valley; Puketoi Range; Horoeka Road.
January ‘A ten days’ journey with Mr Robert A. Wilson, Bulls, and Mr Frank Hutchinson Jun. when a crossing of the mountains was made from Wakarara to Waiouru over what is known as Colenso's track’ (Aston, 1914). 1 Waipawa; Wakarara, camped 1450 ft Makaroro River. 2 Makaroro River to 3600 ft on slopes. 3 To trig of Te Atua Mahuru. 4 Bald Hill; Maropea River. 5 Maropea River, junction of Waikamaka River; Mokai Gorge; top of Mokai Patea. 6 Riddiford's Station; Mokaitaoroa; Moawhango. 7 Moawhango; Erewhon; Oarenga River, 8 Oarenga whare. 9 Motu Matai above Moawhango. 10 Moawhango to Waiouru. 11 Auckland. Undated — Reparoa Bog.
February 27 Taruarau Gorge.
March Hawkes Bay, ‘A solitary ascent of Whariti In March 1914’ (Aston, 1914).
December 23 Taihape to begin crossing of the northern Ruahines, Kaimanawas to the summit of Makorako and a return journey to the Rangitikei River near Taihape with R. A. Wilson, Bulls, and F. K. Hutchinson Jnr. 24 Rangitikei River; Aorangi. 25 Mt Aorangi. 26 Limestone bluffs, Mangaohane Station. 27 Boyd's run; Mangataramea; Kuripapango; Taruarua River gorge; Otupae Plateau; Tokaanu. 28 Boyd's run. 29 Terraces upper page 56 Taruarau River; Golden Hill hut. 30 Mangataramea River; Mangamaire River; Mt Michael rabbiter's camp. 31 Mt Makarako.
January 1 ‘Hill S. of camp. 4600 ft.’, junction of Mangamaire and Rangitikei Rivers; Motu Matai hut. 2 Motu Matai for Waiouru; branch of Moawhango River. 3 Across largest branch of Moawhango; ‘13 mile peg at 6 p.m.’ Waiouru at 10.45 p.m. (11.20 Express for Wellington). 6-14 Rotorua area.
February Parkes Peak, Ruahines. 8 Matukituki River, Ruahines [sic]. Undated — Tarawera, Hawkes Bay, apparently not Mt Tarawera (Oliver, 1952). Upper Hutt.
April Easter trip to Marlborough with A. Morris Jones, A. F. O'Donoghue and H. J. Ferrar. 23 Isolated Hill Creek; Ure Canyon; Ure Basin and Ure River. 24 Ben More. 25 Isolated Hill. 26 Ure River. Undated — Sherry River near Tadmore.
September 9 Manawatu Gorge. 19 Kaitoke.
August Birkenhead, Auckland.
October 24-25 Kapiti Island.
November 13 Kaitoke. 15 Seatoun. 27 Kaiwarra [sic].
December Undated — lower Awatere Valley; Clarence; Flaxbourne; Mouatts Lookout. 18 Picton. 19 Omaka River, Blenheim, 20 Hauwai Station, Lake Grassmere; Ward. 21 Ward to Kekerengu with R. H. A. Wilson. 22 Kekerengu over Beehive Saddle and Rag Saddle past Halfpenny Hill and over the Wharf Stream and on to Coverham. 24 Ridge between Nidd and Swale Stream. 25 Nidd Valley; Whernside Trig Hill limestone talus. 26 Nidd River; Chalk Range; Brian Boru. 27 Dee Hut; limestone hill between Mead and Swale; Mead Gorge. 28 Dee Gorge. 29 Shoulder of Tapuaenuku ca. 5300ft. 30 Shingle slips at 6000 ft on Tapuaenuku. 31 Mead Gorge.
January 1 Coverham to Kekerengu; Ward. 2 W. H. Butt's property, Lake Grassmere. 6 To Auckland. 7 Auckland (saw Petrie). 8 To Rotorua. 9 Tarawera Mountain. 10 Property at Mamuku. 11 Whakarewarewa Nursery and Wairoa. 12 Tarawera Lake at Wairoa; Tarawera Mountain. 13 Return to Wellington. February 14 Picton-Blenheim, Tuamarina Valley. Undated — Awatere near Seddon; Upcot; Shingly Range; Mead Gorge; Mouatts Lookout; Kekerengu River; Flaxbourne. Tapuaenuku ascended with J. A. Thomson, H. Hamilton and A. F. O'Donoghue.
March Kekerengu River. 26 Te Kaminaru Bay hills. Undated — hills behind Fitchett's Farm and Happy Valley, Brooklyn, Wellington; Days Bay.
April 16 Happy Valley. 21 Wellington to Auckland. 22 Auckland with D. Petrie. 23 Rangitoto. 24 Waitakere Ranges, Titirangi. 25 Rotorua. 26 Mamuku. 29 Silverstream.
May 6 Silverstream. 20 Crows Nest, Wellington.
June 10 Plimmerton. 17 Mexted's bush, Porirua. Undated — Days Bay.
July 17 Levin tarn.
August 27 Maungaroa. 29 St Leonards, Dunedin.
October 17—Seatoun with L. Cockayne. 20 Wadestown bush.
November Field's swamp, Waikanae.
December Undated — Blenheim. 13 Napier.
January 1 Maungatua. Undated — Thames.
February 12 Silverstream, Karori. Undated — South Karori.page 57
March Waiotapu; Titiokura.
April Kaiangaroa Plains.
October 12 Foxton.
December 15 Blenheim to Nelson. 16 Dun Mt track. 17 Spooner Range, Hope Saddle, Glenhope. 21 To Takaka. 22 Takaka, Pupu Springs, to Collingwood. 23 Pakawau Hills, West Whanganui Inlet. Undated — Tarakohe; Havelock.
March Riwaka Hill; West Whanganui Inlet; Knuckle Hill near Cape Farewell.
June 4 Top of Ponawha. 23 Makara Hill. Undated — Pohoropa ridge, Smith's farm, South Makara.
August 18 Field's property, Waikanae. 24 Levin State Farm, Wereroa; Waiopehu Reserve; Ohau. 25 Mt Robertson. 26 Levin tarn. Undated — Levin beaches; Hokio River; Moutere Block; Manawatu Bridge at Foxton.
September 1 Fitchett's Bush; Khandallah; Kaka (Kaukau) trig; between Kaka and Crows Nest. 21 Swamp, Paekakariki; Paraparaumu dunes. 22 Otaki flood plain. 23 Palmerston North, Esplanade gardens and bush. Undated — Tokomaru flax swamp; Makerua; Koputaroa; Manukau.
October Days Bay.
November Undated — Gollans Valley; Tongue Point. 14 South Karori Creek.
December Days Bay; Rona Bay; Gollans Valley; Mt McKerrow, Tararuas.
February Banks Peninsula.
March 29 Wireless Station.
April 5 Christchurch-Lyttelton; Port Hills near Sumner.
May 8 Ruakura.
June 13 Wallaceville. 27 Wallaceville.
July 12-14 Waikanae-Levin.
August Nelson 12-18. 14 Little Grey Valley; Glenhope Station; Hope River near Glenhope. 15 Mai Mai Railway Station. Undated — Waimaungu; Totara Flat.
November Table Top and Mt Hector; Otaki Gorge; Waikaremoana.
December Ngaio; Tongariro; Waimarino Plain; Kaimanawa.
January Tokaanu; Waimarino; Kaimanawa; Ketetahi, Mt Tongariro.
February 1 Murdering Beach; Tomahawk, Otago. 2 Tomahawk. 4 Wycliffe Bay; Kaikai; North Otago Heads. Undated — Tokitima; Port Hills; Mamuku.
March Kelburn; Ohura Basin near houseboat (Taumarunui).
December Waimarino; Tongariro.
June 3 Gollans Valley (1921 or 1931).
December Waimarino Plain.
January Ruahines; Upcot and Molesworth.
February Upcot and Molesworth.
Ngahauranga Gorge, Wellington.
April Wairarapa. 18 Maungatiritiri River. 19 Carters Bush. 20 Mt Holdsworth; Maungatiritiri River. 21 Castlepoint and Tinui Taipos with Arnold Wall.
October Kaweka Range.
January Kaweka Range.
February Awatere near Jordan (1916?).
August Campbells Bay, Auckland.
April Cape Turakirae; Tongariro National Park 4000 ft.page 58
September Napier Harbour.
July Whangarei. Napier.
Aston, B. C., 1910: Botanical notes made on a journey across the Tararuas. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 42. pp. 13-25.
——, 1914: Notes on the phanerogamic flora of the Ruahine mountain chain with a list of plants observed thereon. Ibid. 46, pp. 40-54.
——, 1916: The Vegetation of Tarawera Mountains. Ibid. 48, pp. 304-314.
A Note on Riccia Sorocarpa Bisch.
In 1975 Riccia sorocarpa Bisch, was growing on the shore of Lake Pukaki (Tuatara 22 : 227), but this area has since been flooded in the interests of water storage for the generation of electricity. Despite a search at this time of several likely areas in the North Island, it was not found there. However, on May 1, 1979, it was located growing abundantly in rosettes on paths and soil in a garden at 3 Pipi Street, Taupo. It is probably in other gardens near Taupo.
Riccia sorocarpa is easily recognised at a magnification of X 10 by the surface pattern of squares and the deep, narrow median groove. The only other Riccia species found in New Zealand which shows a similar surface pattern is R. bifurca Hoffm. (Tuatara 21 : 123-4). The latter only occasionally forms rosettes and has a narrow groove which soon widens. There are differences in the spore marking also.
Ella O. Campbell