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Botanical Discovery in New Zealand: The Visiting Botanists

Sir Joseph Banks and Dr Solander — (Cook's First Voyage)

Sir Joseph Banks and Dr Solander
(Cook's First Voyage)

The story of the discovery of the plants of New Zealand begins with the arrival in this country of the botanists who accompanied Captain Cook in the Endeavour in 1769, that is to say, more than a hundred and eighty years ago. The first contact of Europeans with the vegetation of New Zealand was by no means a cursory one. On the Endeavour were two botanists, Sir Joseph Banks and page 4
Sir Joseph Banks (1743–1820).

Sir Joseph Banks (1743–1820).

Dr D. C. Solander (1736–1782)

Dr D. C. Solander (1736–1782)

Dr Daniel Solander, skilled in collecting, preserving, and describing plants, and with them were eight assistants, including three artists. The first investigation of the New Zealand flora was thus one of great importance.
The immediate cause of the expedition sailing when it did was that it might be in a suitable locality to observe the transit of Venus over the sun's disc, an event which takes place only four times in every 243 years.* The calculations of astronomers showed that a transit would take place in June 1769 and that it could be observed from the South Pacific Ocean. The Royal Society accordingly requested the Government to fit out a vessel with proper equipment and personnel to observe this transit. A strongly built barque was purchased and renamed the Endeavour. Lieutenant James Cook R.N. was appointed Commander, and altogether there were on board when the vessel left England ninety-four persons, including an astronomer to assist in taking observations on

* Observations on the transit of Venus are usually made to determine the distance of the sun from the earth, and this information was thought to be so important that well-equipped expeditions were dispatched to various parts of the world when the rare occurrences of Venus crossing the sun's disc took place.

page 5 the transit of Venus and ten other scientists to carry out botanical and zoological work. It was this group of botanists and their assistants that was responsible for the scientific results of the expedition so far as the plants and animals of the countries visited were concerned. We must accordingly see who these people were and how they came to be included as members of the expedition.

Sir Joseph Banks was a distinguished scientist who lived during the reign of George the Third. His fame is due not so much to his writings, which consisted mainly of a few papers on agricultural subjects and his Journal, published seventy-six years after his death, as to his great influence on the key men of the day, and his very important work in equipping scientific expeditions. He was President of the Royal Society for forty-one years. He was an ardent collector, and during his lifetime amassed an extensive library and art collection and also much material illustrating the sciences of botany, zoology, and anthropology. When the British Government decided to send an expedition to the South Seas to observe the transit of Venus, Banks applied to the head of the Admiralty, Lord Sandwich, for leave to join the expedition. At his own expense, stated to be £10,000, he provided all the equipment and stores needed to make collections in every branch of natural science, and engaged Dr Solander, three draughtsmen or artists, and five servants to accompany him.

Banks’ name is now commemorated in those of a number of plants. The name Banksia was given by the younger Linnaeus to an Australian genus of trees, and in New Zealand we have several species of plants named after Banks, for example Blechnum banksii, a coastal fern; Cordyline banksii, one of the species known as ‘cabbage trees’; Pterostylis banksii, a ground orchid; all species widely distributed in the North and the South Islands. Freycinetia banksii, the screw pine or kiekie, is found in the North Island and in the northern part of the South Island. Astelia banksii is a large tussock plant with sword-like leaves occurring in forest undergrowth from the North Cape to Taranaki and Hawke's Bay. Senecio banksii is a handsome yellow-flowered herbaceous daisy found mainly in seaside stations in the Auckland Province.

Dr Daniel Carl Solander, a Swede, studied at the University of Upsala and became a pupil of Linnaeus, who advised him to go to England. There he obtained a post in the British Museum. In 1768 he made the acquaintance of Banks, who in the following year induced him to accompany Banks on Cook's voyage to the South Seas. On this voyage Solander accompanied Banks on all his excursions ashore, and together they collected what was probably the largest number of botanical specimens taken, up to that time, by a scientific expedition.

page 6
Kowhai(Edwardsia tetraptera)

Kowhai(Edwardsia tetraptera)

New zealand Flax(Phormium tenax)

New zealand Flax
(Phormium tenax)

New Zealand species bearing Solander's name are Nothofagus solandri, the black beech, and Carex solandri, a sedge, widely distributed in the North and the South Islands; Astelia solandri, the kahakaha, with edible fruit, found in the North Island and in Nelson and Marlborough; and Olearia solandri, a tall shrub with small leaves found in the North Island and in the Marlborough Sounds, mainly near the sea.

Banks’ artists were John Reynolds, Sydney Parkinson, and Alexander Buchan, all of whom died on the voyage. Parkinson is the best known of these, as he wrote an account of the voyage which was published in 1784.

The Endeavour sailed from Plymouth round Cape Horn to the Society Islands. Here a stay of three months was made at Tahiti in order to take observations on the transit of Venus. The voyage was then continued southwestwards and on October 7th 1769 land was sighted. Landings were made on three successive days, at the place Cook called Teoneroa (now Poverty Bay).

page 7
Wild Celery (Apium prostratum)

Wild Celery
(Apium prostratum)

Cook's Scurvy Grass (Lepidium oleraceum)

Cook's Scurvy Grass
(Lepidium oleraceum)

Banks and Solander were able to do some plant collecting at Teoneroa and gathered altogether over sixty species. It must have been a truly exciting experience for the botanists to find themselves in a land where every species of plant was new to them. Solander did, indeed, record the finding of two plants already known — the common sow thistle (Sonchus oleraceus) and the black nightshade (Solanum nigrum) —but it now seems probable that in both cases these were New Zealand species. Solander's list contains the names of many of the trees and shrubs which are now familiar to us, among them the karaka, ngaio, kowhai (the large-leaved species, Edwardsia tetraptera), rangiora, koromiko, makaka (Carmichaelia australis), and the New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax), which, according to Solander's manuscript, was found everywhere.

At Teoneroa the ship's crew gathered large quantities of two coastal herbs, Lepidium oleraceum and Apium prostratum, for use as a preventive against scurvy. Though it was not then known page 8
Konini (Fuchsia excorticata)

(Fuchsia excorticata)

that scurvy was caused by the absence of vitamin C in the food, Cook knew that if he provided his crew with fresh vegetables in sufficient quantity scurvy would not appear. Whenever he landed he got the crew to gather fresh herbs; these were boiled, and all on board urged to drink the concoction freely. In this way he is said to have kept everyone in better health than had been the case before his time. At Teoneroa and other places along the coast of New Zealand, Cook found the Lepidium (a plant belonging to the cabbage family) growing in such abundance that he was able to obtain boatloads of it. He correctly judged its antiscorbutic properties. The plant is commonly known as ‘Cook's scurvy grass’. Sheep are very fond of it and it has now almost entirely disappeared from our shores.
Next, a course was set southward, but at the place which Cook named Cape Turnagain he reversed his direction, and on October 21st arrived off Tigadu,* north of Teoneroa. Here Banks and Solander went ashore collecting plants. They gathered over ninety

* The origin of the name Tigadu is uncertain, but the locality is the present-day Anaura Bay. The spellings of the Maori names of localities adopted in this account are those given in Solander's manuscript on the plants of New Zealand. In some cases other ways of spelling the names are used by different writers on Cook's voyages.

page 9
Kowhai-Ngutu-Kaka(Clianthus puniceus)

(Clianthus puniceus)

species, including the following not obtained at Teoneroa: konini (Fuchsia excorticata), kowhai - ngutu - kaka (Clianthus puniceus), karamu (Coprosma lucida), and a remarkable herbaceous plant with woolly serrated leaves (Senecio banksii) found on the coast. The kowhai-ngutu-kaka is a beautiful shrub belonging to the pea family; the flower is crimson and the keel, which is about two inches long, is curved, quite resembling a kaka's beak. Apparently this species was quite common in Cook's time, but it has been eaten out by stock and now exists in a wild state in a few localities only, though it is not uncommon in cultivation.
Doubling back a little, Cook next anchored off Tolaga,* Maori Uawa, where Banks and Solander collected a large number of species of plants, about a hundred and sixty. They recorded here for the first time the following trees: rewarewa, kohekohe, puriri, karamu (Coprosma robusta), the nikau palm, and others. Here also was collected a handsome shrub, the raukumara (Senecio perdicioides), which species was not again collected by Europeans until 1892, when Colenso found it in the same locality. Another dis–

* The name is used at the present day, though we cannot identify it with any Maori place name. One version is that when Cook asked a Maori the name of the place, the Maori thought he was being asked the direction of the wind and replied ‘Karapu’ (northeast), and Tolaga is Cook's interpretation of this reply.

page 10 covery was the kiekie (Freycinetia banksii), a member of the screwpine family with an edible fruit. At Tolaga Bay, Banks visited the Maori plantations and saw growing kumaras, taro, and gourds, species that the Maoris brought from Polynesia.

In his Journal Banks mentions the names of five kinds of Polynesian plants cultivated by the Maoris, species which they must have brought from ‘Hawaiki’ when they migrated to New Zealand. The date of the great Maori migration to this country is usually put down as about 1350, so the Maoris had six* species of Polynesian plants in cultivation for at least four hundred years before Cook's arrival. At Anaura Bay in the East Cape district Banks records sweet potatoes, cocos, and a plant of the cucumber kind in the native plantations. What Banks calls ‘cocos’ is the taro, and his cucumber-like plant is the gourd from which the Maoris made calabashes. At the Bay of Islands Banks mentions also yams, and the paper mulberry tree (Broussonetia papyrifera) which, because of its rarity, was used by the Maoris only for fillets for adorning the hair of chiefs. This species now appears to be extinct in New Zealand. The yam, uwhi (Dioscorea sativa) bears large swollen starchy roots. During Cook's voyage it was seen at the Bay of Islands and at Tolaga Bay. When potatoes were introduced into New Zealand, however, the yam was neglected and became extinct. The taro (Colocasia antiquorum) is a plant of the arum family and its large root affords a nourishing food with a pleasant taste. It was extensively cultivated by the Maoris up to a hundred years ago, but now exists in a few localities only. The taro now seen belongs to kinds that were introduced within European times. The young fruits of the gourd, hue (Lagenaria vulgaris), were cooked in a steam oven and eaten, but most use was made of the ripe fruit, which has a hard woody skin, for making water vessels and bowls for preserving food. The kumara or sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) has always been extensively cultivated by the Maori, but the kinds now grown are different from that seen by Banks and Solander.

Before the ship left Tolaga Bay on October 29th 1769, according to Banks 'a large supply of excellent celery, with which the country abounds’, was taken aboard. [This celery is the native species already mentioned (Apium prostratum).) Anchor was next dropped at Opuragi (Maori Purangi), that is, Mercury Bay. A stay of eleven days was made here, during which time, on November 9th, observations were made on the transit of Mercury over the sun's disc. At this place Banks and Solander collected more than two hundred kinds of plants. Among those they saw for the first

* Besides the five kinds of Polynesian plants reported by Banks there was a sixth, the ti pore (cordyline terminalis), which survived at Ahipara as late as fifty years ago and may, indeed, still be existent.

page 11 time were a species of grass-tree (Dracophyllum squarrosum), pohutukawa, mangrove, akepiro (Olearia furfuracea), and the silver tree fern (Cyathea dealbata). Although there would be plenty of kauri trees within sight of the ship, neither Banks nor Solander detected this species; but curiously enough they found pieces of kauri gum, really a resin, entangled among the roots of the mangrove, and thought that it was produced by this tree. On this account Solander, in his manuscript, gave the name Avicennia resinifera (resinifera, bearing resin) to the mangrove, although the mangrove does not in reality produce any resin.

Leaving Mercury Bay and sailing between Coromandel Peninsula and Great Barrier Island, Cook entered the mouth of a river ‘broad as the Thames at Greenwich’ (Banks' Journal). He called the place Oouhuragi, a name which is recognizable as Hauraki, and the river the Thames. Banks describes a kahikatea forest some distance up the river in these words: ‘The banks were completely clothed with the finest timber my eyes ever beheld, of a tree we had before seen, but only at a distance, in Poverty Bay and Hawke's Bay. Thick woods of it were everywhere upon the banks, every tree as straight as a pine, and of immense size, and the higher we went the more numerous they were. About two leagues from the mouth we stopped and went ashore. Our first business was to measure one of these trees. The woods were swampy, so we could not range far; we found one, however, by no means the largest we had seen, which was 19 feet 8 inches in circumference and 89 feet in height without a branch.' Among the kinds of trees Banks and Solander saw at Oouhuragi for the first time were tawa and matai.

The voyage was continued and the coast followed until Motuaro, Maori Motuarohia, Bay of Islands, was reached. Here for the first time Banks saw six plants of aute, the paper mulberry, which as a great rarity the Maoris showed him. As usual, Banks and Solander continued plant collecting and obtained altogether about eighty species. Most were of kinds already collected, including the kowhai-ngutu-kaka.

From the Bay of Islands the ship continued northwards, and after rounding the North Cape and fixing the position of the Three Kings Islands, followed the west coast of the North Island southwards until it entered Queen Charlotte Sound. Here Banks and Solander collected until, as Banks expressed it, they had ‘nearly exhausted all the plants in our neighbourhood’. They obtained about two hundred different kinds at or near Totaranui, as the locality was recorded in Solander's manuscript. In this most southern station in which plants were collected during Cook's first voyage, the botanists encountered a number of species for the first time. These included a grass tree (Dracophyllum filifolium), a page 12
Native Broom(Carmichaelia australis)

Native Broom(Carmichaelia australis)

wild Spaniard (Aciphylla squarrosa), horoeka (Pseudopanax crassifolium), southern rata (Metrosideros umbellata), heketara (Olearia rani), kanono (Coprosma australis), rimu, and beech.
While in New Zealand, Banks and Solander eagerly took every opportunity to go ashore; they worked hard and for long hour's to build up their botanical collections. After collecting the specimens, the botanist's main problem is to get rid of the moisture, both on the specimens and in their tissues, as quickly as possible, and in wet weather this is a troublesome business. Banks mentions the laborious process of drying plants in sand, but mostly he made use of drying paper. In this way, with proper care, good flat specimens can be obtained, but this entails changing the papers frequently. That is to say, the plants must be taken out of the damp papers and placed in dry ones. Meantime the damp papers are dried page 13
Specimen of Native Broom Collected by Banks and SolanderThis specimen, now in the Dominion Museum, shows part of the original mount of heavy paper (the darker portion at edge) and the original British Museum label (right). This label states that the specimen was laid (mounted) in 1833 and gives the name now used, Carmichaelia australis (R. Brown, 1825), as well as, very faintly, Banks' and Solander's name, Genista compressa. The label on the left, written by Thomas Kirk in New Zealand, gives both names and states that Banks and Solander collected this specimen. Straps of gummed paper hold the specimen in place.

Specimen of Native Broom Collected by Banks and Solander
This specimen, now in the Dominion Museum, shows part of the original mount of heavy paper (the darker portion at edge) and the original British Museum label (right). This label states that the specimen was laid (mounted) in 1833 and gives the name now used, Carmichaelia australis (R. Brown, 1825), as well as, very faintly, Banks' and Solander's name, Genista compressa. The label on the left, written by Thomas Kirk in New Zealand, gives both names and states that Banks and Solander collected this specimen. Straps of gummed paper hold the specimen in place.

page 14 for use again. All this sounds simple, but if the weather continues to be damp there is every chance of the specimens becoming mouldy. The finished specimens ready for the herbarium are dried and pressed twigs or whole plants, bearing leaves, flowers, and fruit.

Banks, writing at Botany Bay soon after he left New Zealand, and probably referring in part to his New Zealand collections, says: ‘Our collection of plants was now grown so immensely large that it was necessary that some extraordinary care should be taken of them, lest they should spoil in the books. I therefore devoted this day to that business and carried ashore all the drying paper, nearly 200 quires, of which the larger part was full, and spreading them upon a sail in the sun, kept them in this manner exposed the whole day, often turning them, and sometimes turning the quires in which were plants inside out. By this means they came on board at night in very good condition.’

Though the ship remained in New Zealand waters for nearly two months more, only one more landing, at Admiralty Bay,* was made.

The natural history collections made during the voyage were very extensive and belonged to Sir Joseph Banks. They were bequeathed to Robert Brown who, on condition of being appointed Keeper of the Botanical Department of the British Museum, made them over in 1828 to the Museum though he reserved to himself the fullest use of them during his lifetime. Two duplicate sets, each of about two hundred species, of the Banksian plants are housed in New Zealand, one in the Auckland Museum and the other in the Dominion Museum.

Although detailed description of the plants collected by Banks and Solander were drawn up by Solander and over two hundred engravings on copper were made, they were never published. Solander prepared full descriptions of the species as soon as possible after collecting them, and, at the same time, drawings were made by the artists of the expedition. When Solander returned to England the descriptions were arranged in systematic order and copied out neatly by an amanuensis. The title given to the manuscript, now preserved in the British Museum, was Primitiae Florae Novae Zelandiae. It contained descriptions of 343 species, and there are in the British Museum specimens of other species not included in the manuscript. There is a typed copy of the manuscript in the Auckland Museum and a photostat copy in the Dominion Museum, while sets of the illustrations are also in these institutions and in the Turnbull Library. Delays in the printing

* Admiralty Bay (not shown on the map inside the front cover) is just across from Totaranui, between D'Urville Island and the mainland.

page 15
Title Page of Dr Solander's ManuscriptTranslated, this reads:The First Fruits of the Flora of New ZealandOrCatalogue of Plants Collected in the North and South Islandsof New Zealand from 8th october to 31st March AD 1769 and 1770‘Eahei no Mauwe’ and ‘T'avai Poenammoo’ are Solander's (and Cook's) way of writing the Maori prases ‘he ahi no Maui’ (a fire of Maui) and ‘Te Wai-Pounamu’ (the water of greenstone). Cook adopted these names for the North and South Islands, though he stated he could not be sure whether they referred in each case to the whole island or to a district of it. Actually the Maoris called the North Island ‘Te Ika a Maui’ (Maui's fish) and the South Island ‘Te Waka a Maui’ (Maui's canoe).

Title Page of Dr Solander's Manuscript
Translated, this reads:
The First Fruits of the Flora of New Zealand
Catalogue of Plants Collected in the North and South Islands
of New Zealand from 8th october to 31st March AD 1769 and

‘Eahei no Mauwe’ and ‘T'avai Poenammoo’ are Solander's (and Cook's) way of writing the Maori prases ‘he ahi no Maui’ (a fire of Maui) and ‘Te Wai-Pounamu’ (the water of greenstone). Cook adopted these names for the North and South Islands, though he stated he could not be sure whether they referred in each case to the whole island or to a district of it. Actually the Maoris called the North Island ‘Te Ika a Maui’ (Maui's fish) and the South Island ‘Te Waka a Maui’ (Maui's canoe).

page 16 of the manuscript were apparently due to differences between Banks and the Admiralty and Treasury. Had the manuscript been published we would now be using Solander's names for over 340 kinds of our native plants instead of the names proposed by other botanists at later dates. Many of these botanists, however, adopted names suggested by Solander.

The following names, for instance, are the same as those used by Solander. though they are now ascribed to later authors because Solander's manuscript was never published: Metrosideros excelsa (pohutukawa). Myitus bullata (ramarama), Clianthus puniccus (kowhai-ngutu-kaka). and Dacrydium cupressinum (rimu). There are many others where Solander's specific name has been used by later authors (and ascribed to them), though we now place the species in different genera, for example: Solander's Aster gracilenta (mountain daisy) is our Celmisia gracilenta, his Pelaphia acerosa (sand coprosma) is our Coprosma acerosa, and his Aralia crassifolia (horoeka) is our Pseudopanax crassifolium.