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New Zealand Plants and their Story

Modern New Zealand Botany and Thomas Kirk

Modern New Zealand Botany and Thomas Kirk.

The publication of Hooker's Handbook brings us to what may be called the modern stage of New Zealand botany. Here the late Mr. Thomas Kirk stands foremost. For many years he held the position of leader of botanical thought in New Zealand, and was not only an industrious collector, but a prolific writer, as is proved by the 140 papers to his credit in the Transactions, so say nothing of publications elsewhere. He also wrote the "Forest Flora of New Zealand," which is the classic so far as our trees are concerned. At the time of his lamented death he was engaged on a new Flora of New Zealand, which, to the great loss of science, he did not live to complete. Fortunately, one-half was finished, and, although it lacked the correcting hand of its author, it will stand as one of the foremost publications on New Zealand floristic botany. Other workers there have been to whom New Zealand botany owes much — notably, Mr. T. F. Cheeseman, the author of the admirable "Manual of the New Zealand Flora "; and Mr. D. Petrie, who has added much to our knowledge of the plants of Otago—but most of them are still active, and their work is speaking for itself to the scientific public.

From this short sketch, which does but scant justice to the history of botanical research in New Zealand, it can be seen that our knowledge of the flora has been a thing of slow growth, and that it represents the labour of many men. Such arduous work has, for the most part, brought little, if any, pecuniary gain to its votaries, and in many cases still less recognition from their fellow-colonists, or even from page 24the scientific world. Some, like Sinclair and Richard Cunningham, have given their lives to the cause. All have spent much time and labour. It surely seems that these men are as worthy of the regard and admiration of their fellows as those who, in more public positions and with much blare of trumpets, serve the nation. But the naturalist gets a reward other than the plaudits of the crowd. The constant communing with nature is a source of ennobling pleasure, while the discovery of a new fact is in itself an ample recompense for all the toil of research.