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New Zealand Plants and their Story

The Cunninghams and the Plant-life of Northern Auckland

The Cunninghams and the Plant-life of Northern Auckland.

Allan Cunningham, the colonial botanist of New South Wales, who must not be confused with his namesake the Scottish poet, visited New Zealand in 1826. The scene of his labours was the Bay of Islands and the district adjacent. Cunningham, accompanied by the Natives, spent some five months collecting plants while wandering through those virgin kauri forests, so soon to be destroyed. In 1833 his illfated brother Richard* proceeded to New Zealand in H.M.S. "Buffalo," presumably to assist in procuring spars for maintopmasts. This duty performed, R. Cunningham left the ship at Whangaroa, remaining alone, solely in the interests of science, according to his biographer, "on the shores of a harbour densely inhabited by savages, who had but a few years before massacred the crew of the ship 'Boyd,' and more recently had seized upon the houses and property of the Wesleyan missionaries, who, after much fatigue, privation, and insult, had effected a settlement among them." But, as luck would have it, the Maoris remembered his brother Allan, with whom they had been on most friendly terms, and so they welcomed the venturous botanist, and assisted him to the utmost of their power.

The two Cunninghams found many "new" plants—i.e., such as had not been described in any publication. These, together with a description of the other known New Zealand plants, were published by Allan in his "Flora Novae-Zelandiae Praecursor; or, a Specimen of the Botany of the Islands of New Zealand"—an important work containing valuable details as to the actual stations of the plants, indispensable information so frequently not given by many authors.