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New Zealand Plants and their Story

The Forsters, Father and Son

The Forsters, Father and Son.

Sir Joseph Banks's explorations in the vast unknown lands of the south spurred him on to fresh exertions. He accordingly made arrangements to join Cook's second voyage, the Government of England accepting his services, as well it might. So extensive were the preparations he made that he was obliged to specially raise money to meet the expenses. He engaged, so we read, "Zoffany the painter, three draughtsmen, two secretaries, and nine servants acquainted with the modes of preserving animals and plants." The Comptroller of the Navy, however, succeeded in putting so many obstacles in Banks's way that he withdrew in disgust from the project. Notwithstanding all this, Banks, to his everlasting credit, took great interest in the voyage, and succeeded in getting Dr. John Reinhold Forster, with his son John George, appointed naturalists to the expedition.

This second voyage of Captain Cook was of special interest to the botany of New Zealand, since a portion of the real South Island vegetation was investigated for the first time, that of Queen Charlotte Sound, examined by Banks and Solander on the previous voyage, page 16having closer affinities with that of the North Island. A lengthy stay was made at Dusky Sound in 1773, and Queen Charlotte Sound was revisited. Only 160 ferns and flowering-plants were collected, a small gathering for a district so rich in plant-life as that including the West Coast Sounds of Otago.

The remains of Captain Cook's hut at Dusky Bay still stand, and the spot was visited by the author some years ago. There nature is exactly as it was at the time of Cook's visit. The same rich shrubbery marks the shore; kidney-ferns now, as then, clothe the forest-floor and climb up the beech and pine trees, from whose boughs, too, depend the long dark-green shoots of a drooping lycopod (Lycopodium Billardieri).

The elder Forster published an account of some of the plants in a work bearing the ponderous title, "Characteres Generum Plantarum quas in insulis Maris Australis collegit. J. R. Forster." This was followed by a work by the son, "Florulae Insularum Australium Prodromus," giving descriptions in Latin of 170 New Zealand plants; but these descriptions are altogether too short to be of any real use.