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The Vegetation of New Zealand

2. The Period of Colonial Collectors and Hooker's further Investigations

2. The Period of Colonial Collectors and Hooker's further Investigations.

General. Although a scattered European population had occupied parts of northern North Island for some 20 years, it was not till 1839 that regular settlement began, and that, one after the other, the Provinces were founded. Thenceforth, the history of botanical research is bound up with that of the development of the Colony and for some time its progress depended on that love for Nature which inspired a few enthusiasts to collect the plants near at hand, or even to undertake distant botanical excursions. But there were none in the young Colony who felt equal to describing their discoveries, nor indeed was there means for local publication. Consequently all sent their collections to Hooker, and rightly so since he was not only the most competent man to deal with them, but the great resources of Kew and the collections of the earlier explorations were at his disposal.

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From the arrival of Colenso in New Zealand to the publication of the Flora Novae-Zelandiae (1853–55). The Rev. W. Colenso came to New Zealand as a missionary in 1834. His earliest collections were made from North Cape to Whangarei. Between 1842 and 1847, he made many arduous journeys on foot through some of the most difficult country in North Island, accompanied only by a few Maoris. The Ruahine Mountains, the Volcanic Plateau and the high lands of the East Cape district were perhaps the most important of numerous localities visited, since they added many species to the little-known high-mountain flora. At about this time A. Sinclair collected on the east of North Island, and somewhat later he added, in Nelson, a good many species to the high-mountain flora. From 1847–51, Lyall, surgeon to the Acheron, then surveying the coast, made important collections chiefly in the south and south-west of South Island Though he ascended to more than 900 m. in the Fiord district, he does not seem to have gained the alpine belt. Early in the fifties David Monro commenced his explorations of Marlborough and eastern Nelson, and some of his novelties are recorded in the appendix to the Flora Novae-Zelandiae In 1853 the first volume of this work appeared, dealing with the spermophytes, and two years later, the second volume devoted to the cryptogams. The number of species described, 1767, nearly doubled the last enumeration. The work abounds in information valuable for the present-day student of the flora; but more important still is the classical Introductory Essay, in which there is a philosophical discussion on the limits of species, variation, the affinities and origin of the flora and so on, which for lucidity, marshalling of facts, carefully balanced conclusions, and praiseworthy moderation has never been excelled.

From 1855 to the publication of the Handbook (1867). When the Flora Novae-Zelandiae appeared nothing was known of the South Island high-mountain flora beyond the results of sparse collecting in the extreme northern mountains, nor of that of the lowlands except at distant points along the coast,. The years 1855–67 saw this state of affairs righted, thanks especially to the labours of Travers, Haast, Hector and Buchanan.

W. T. L. Travers explored the Nelson portion of the Southern Alps from 1854–60, making important collections which he sent to Kew. Haast, although primarily a geologist, made extensive collections of plants during his explorations of wide areas for the most part absolutely unknown. The central chain of the Southern Alps and its neighbourhood were the chief areas visited. His collections and observations threw a flood of light upon the high mountain florula, putting it into its true position in the general flora of New Zealand. James Hector and J. Buchanan explored the rugged mountains of south-west Otago. Their collections were of extreme value not merely for their many novelties, but because they showed southwest Otago to be a well-marked botanical district. The botany of eastern page 12Otago was, in part, made known by Lauder Lindsay of Edinburgh, who spent 4 months at the task in 1861–62, and afterwards published his "Observations on New Zealand lichens" (1866) and Contributions to New Zealand Botany (1868). In 1863 F. von Hochstetter's classical work on New Zealand appeared. Although mainly geological, it contains much ecological information, including an excellent account of North IsLand rainforest proper. The same year saw the visit of H. H. Travers, at the instance of his father, to the Chatham Islands. During a four months' stay, he formed that collection which, entrusted to von Mueller, resulted in the publication in 1864 of Vegetation of the Chatham Islands in which 129 species of vascular plants are enumerated.

Through the representations of Dr. Knight and others, the New Zealand Government, in 1861, arranged with Hooker to prepare a flora of the region, on the lines recommended by Sir W. J. Hooker for a uniform series for the British Colonies. The part dealing with the vascular plants appeared in 1864 as Part I of the Handbook of the New Zealand Flora, and Part II, dealing with the Muscineae &c, together with an appendix recording recent discoveries, in 1867. That the work was most excellent, Hooker's name is sufficient guarantee, but that descriptions so full and clear were drawn up, in most cases, from dried material must be a source of wonder to all using the Handbook.