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New Zealand Plants and their Story

The Botanical Exploration of the Southern Alps

The Botanical Exploration of the Southern Alps.

Between the publication of the "Flora Novae-Zelandiae" and the Handbook many important botanical explorations were undertaken in New Zealand, and the alpine flora of the South Island stood especially revealed in all its richness. This result was brought about in page 22large measure by the labours of Dr. A. Sinclair, R.N., Mr. J. T. Bidwell. Dr. Monro, Mr. W. T. L. Travers, Sir Julius von Haast, Sir James Hector, and Mr. J. Buchanan. Other collectors and botanists also did excellent work not only in the alpine region, but in other parts; but space forbids further details, with the exception of mentioning the work of Dr. L. Lindsay, who botanized in eastern Otago, and published a most interesting account of that district.

Dr. Sinclair collected in various parts of the North Island and in the mountains of Nelson. He was associated with Haast in an exploration of the Rangitata, but was drowned in attempting to ford that treacherous river. "Near the banks of the river, just where it emerges from the Alps, wuth the perpetual snowfields glistening in the sun, amidst veronicas and senecios, and covered with celmisias and gentians, there lies his lonely grave," writes Haast. Sir J. Hooker considered Sinclair as only second to Colenso as a botanical explorer, which, is indeed high praise.

Mr. Bid will's explorations began so early as 1839. He made the first collection of alpine plants in New Zealand, in what is now the Tongariro National Park, and an interesting account of his travels appears in his little book, "Rambles in New Zealand," which was published in 1841. Forstera Bidwillii and other plants bear his name.

The extremely interesting mountains of Nelson, whose flora differs in many respects from that of the dividing-range farther south, and has affinities with the North Island mountains, were explored, independently of one another, by Monro and Travers, and also by Bidwill, each adding considerably to our knowledge of the species of floweringplants. The name of Monro is seen in many species of plants, and after Travers was called the genus Traversia, which is now, however, merged in Senecio.

Sir Julius von Haast first made known the alpine flora of Canter bury, and in part of Westland, which is still largely a terra incognita, making every use of his opportunities as Provincial Geologist. According to Hooker, he contributed more new species to the flora than any collector since Colenso. The name of a genus, Haastia, is a slight tribute to his exertions.

Farther south, Sir James Hector and Mr. J. Buchanan performed a large amount of careful and arduous work, and made known for the first time the botany of the Otago lake district. Buchanan also page 23published many observations on botanical matters, and wrote a work on the grasses of New Zealand, in which life-size figures of all the species of that family, as then known, are given. He also paid a short visit to Campbell Island.

The earlier work of Lyall must not be omitted. In 1847-49, as surgeon to the survey ship "Acheron," he collected very largely on the New Zealand coast, paying especial attention to the lower plants. It is a remarkable fact that a plant originally discovered by him, and most plentiful on the shores of Foveaux Strait, Euphrasia repens, is almost wanting in herbaria. The genus Lyallia of Kerguelen Land was founded in his honour; but to us his name is better known through the magnificent buttercup, Ranunculus Lyallii.