Title: Early New Zealand Botanical Art

Author: F. Bruce Sampson

Publication details: Reed Methuen, 1985, Auckland

Digital publication kindly authorised by: F. Bruce Sampson

Part of: New Zealand Texts Collection

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Early New Zealand Botanical Art

New Zealand

New Zealand

The North Island was sighted on 6 October 1769, and for the next six months, until 31 March 1770, the Endeavour remained in New Zealand waters, considerably longer than on Cook's second and third voyages. The Endeavour circumnavigated New Zealand and Cook made the first map of the entire country. I would refer the reader to A. C. and N. C. Beggs James Cook and New Zealand (1970) for a well-written and well-illustrated account of Cook's visits to New Zealand.

On 8 October the Endeavour anchored in Poverty Bay, close to where the city of Gisborne is now located. Banks and Solander went ashore that evening, and when the ship left on 11 October they had "not above 40 species of plants in our boxes". Plants were dried during the voyage between unbound sheets of Milton's Paradise Lost, which had been obtained from a London printer. Poverty Bay received its name "because it afforded us nothing we wanted" (Cook's Journal) in the way of water and food. The first efforts made there to establish friendly relations with the Maoris were partly successful. However, misunderstandings on both sides had led to the deaths of at least six Maoris, despite the presence of Tupaia, one of two Tahitians Banks had persuaded Cook to take back to England, and who was able to converse quite readily with the Maoris.

Four of the illustrations Parkinson made of plants collected from Poverty Bay are reproduced in Dr E. J. Godley's article in D. J. Carr (ed.), Sydney Parkinson (1983). Among the plants collected and painted were: tauhinu (Cassinia leptophylla), wild Irishman or tumatu-kuru (Discaria toumatou), kawakawa or pepper tree {Macropiper excelsum), ngaio {Myoporum laetum), and the bindweed, Calystegia tuguriorum (Plate 3).

From Poverty Bay the Endeavour sailed south down the east coast of the North Island seeking a harbour, and when this was unsuccessful, headed north again at Cape Turnagain and anchored in Anaura Bay, north of Poverty Bay, on 20 October. That evening, and again the next day, Banks and Solander were out collecting. "We rangd all about the bay and were well repaid by finding many plants and shooting some most beautifull [sic] birds." They visited several Maori houses "and saw a little of their customs, for they were not at all shy of shewing us any thing we desird to see, nor did they on our account interrupt their meals the only employment we saw them engagd in." The Maoris there were excellent gardeners, with perhaps 200 acres of sweet potatoes or kumara (Ipomoea batatas), yams and taro {Colocasia esculent a). Later in Mercury Bay they also saw gourds {Lagenaria siceraria) cultivated. These four plants are believed to have been brought to New Zealand by the Maoris. Ninety-eight species of plants were recorded in Anaura Bay ("Tegadu"). They included the whau tree, Entelea arborescens (Plate 1); pigeonwood, Hedycarya arborea (Plate 23 shows Martha King's illustration); tree fuchsia {Fuchsia excorticata), and a small herb, Linum monogynum, a relative of the European flax, a native of the Mediterranean region, from which linen is derived.

Three days later, on 23 October, the Endeavour had moved to a more sheltered anchorage at Tolaga Bay, a little to the south of Anaura Bay. Six days were spent there and, with only a day's bad weather, the naturalists were able to spend five days on shore. Sydney Parkinson was very impressed with Tolaga Bay.

The country about the bay is agreeable beyond description and, with proper cultivation, might be rendered a kind of second Paradise. The hills are covered with beautiful flowering shrubs, intermingled with a great number of tall and stately palms, which fill the air with a most grateful fragrant perfume. We saw the tree which produces the cabbage which ate well boiled [young leaves around the central growing point of the nikau palm, Rhopalostylis sapida]. We also found some trees yielded a fine transparent gum [not the gum of kauri, Agathis australis, which does not occur this far south and which was not collected on the voyage], and between the hills we discovered some fruitful valleys that are adapted either to cultivation or pasturage.

Among the plants Parkinson illustrated from Tolaga Bay were the puriri (Vitex lucens); kohekohe, Dysoxylum spectabile (Plate 30 shows Mrs Featon's illustration); wineberry (Aristotelia serrata); pate {Schefflera digi-tata); kohuhu {Pittosporum tenuifolium); akeake {Dodonaea viscosa); a rata (Metrosideros fulgens); a geranium {Geranium microphyllum) (Plate 6) and a wiry bush (Muehlenbeckia complexa) (Plate 4). Another plant growing page 23 on the cliffs around Tolaga Bay was the kaka beak, Clianthus puniceus, which today occurs naturally only near Lake Waikaremoana (Given, 1981). Sydney Parkinson made a splendid painting of it (reproduced in Begg and Begg, 1970). Cook was able to collect an abundance of New Zealand celery, Apium australe, which Parkinson had illustrated from a collection made in Poverty Bay, and scurvy grass, Lepidium oleraceum, which Parkinson painted when it was collected in Mercury Bay a few days later. These were mixed with soup and oatmeal for the crew's breakfast, to prevent scurvy. Engravings made from Parkinson's illustrations of these two plants are reproduced in an article by Oliver (1951) on botanical discovery in New Zealand.

On 29 October the Endeavour sailed from Tolaga Bay, around East Cape into the Bay of Plenty, and then into Mercury Bay on the Coromandel Peninsula on 3 November. There the Endeavour remained for eleven days. A number of new plants were found and illustrated, for example, the kowhai, Sophora microphylla (a different species is shown in Plate 13); passion fruit (Passiflora tetrandra, formerly Tetrapathaea tetrandra); the matata, Rhabdothamnus solandri, the species name of which commemorates Daniel Solander (see Plate 24 for Martha King's illustration) and hinau, Elaeocarpus dentat us (Plate 2). Mercury Bay ("Opuragi") provided a safe harbour and the Maoris there were excellent fishermen, who supplied the ship with a month's supply for salting. Mercury Bay received its name because it was there that the transit of the planet Mercury across the sun was observed in a cloudless sky on 9 November. Cook's stay there had its tragic moment when Gore, one of the lieutenants, shot at and killed a Maori who had sold him a dogskin cloak and then stolen it back. James Cook admitted he could not approve of Gore's actions "because I thought the punishment a little too severe for the Crime".

On 20 November the Endeavour anchored in the Hauraki Gulf near the Thames River. Banks and Solander spent that day and part of the next with Cook and Tupaia, exploring the river in the pinnace and long boat. They saw the mangrove swamps give way to great forests of kahikatea or white pine {Podocarpus dacrydioides) {Dacrycarpus dacrydioides), and Banks considered this "the finest timber my Eyes ever beheld". Each tree "carried its thickness so truely up to the very top that I dare venture to affirm that the top where the lowest branch took its rise was not a foot less in diameter than where we measurd, which was about 8 feet from the ground."

The Endeavour then sailed to the Bay of Islands, arriving on 29 November. The naturalists were ashore five of the six days spent near Motu Arohia Island, but by then they had collected so many of the coastal plants of the North Island that there were few novelties. They found, on Orokawa Peninsula, extensive gardens of sweet potato and yams {Dioscorea spp.), and some paper mulberry trees {Morus papyrifera). This species was imported when the Maoris came to New Zealand and, wrote Banks,

is the same plant as is usd [sic] by the Chinese to make paper. Whether the Climate does not well agree with it I do not know, but they seemd to value page 24 it very much and that it was very scarce among them I am inclind to believe, as we have not yet seen among them pieces large enough for any use but sticking into the holes of their Ears.

They left the Bay of Islands on 5 December, rounded North Cape and on Christmas Eve sighted the Three Kings Islands. Again Christmas was celebrated: "Our Goose pye was eat with great approbation and in the Evening all hands were as Drunk as our forefathers usd to be upon the like occasion", so that the next day "all heads achd with yesterdays debauch".

The Endeavour proceeded south down the west coast of the North Island and was for many days battered by exceptionally strong winds. On 13 January 1770 a peaked mountain was sighted due east of the Endeavour and Cook named it Egmont after the Earl of Egmont, who for three years (1763-6) was First Lord of the Admiralty. No stops were made during this cruise down the west coast of the North Island. Cook was anxious to find a harbour suitable for careening the ship (turning it on its side) for repairs, and on 15 January found an ideal site, Ships Cove, Queen Charlotte Sound, on the north coast of the South Island. Next morning the ship was careened, and work began scrubbing and recaulking, with some 100 Maoris observing.

page 22

Plate 3 Calystegia tuguriorum (bindweed)

There are five species of Calystegia in New Zealand. Calystegia tuguriorum is found on the Three Kings Islands, North, South, Stewart and the Chatham Islands. It also occurs in South America. The white-to-pink petals are fused into a trumpet shape. At the base of each flower, and enclosing it at the bud stage, can be seen two green floral bracts. These are characteristic of the genus, which comprises about ten species. Sydney Parkinson made the painting while the Endeavour was in Poverty Bay in October 1769. It was completed by J. F. Miller in 1773.

Courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History)

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Plate 3 Calystegia tuguriorum (Forst. f.) R. Br. ex Hook. f. (bindweed) Sydney Parkinson

Plate 3 Calystegia tuguriorum (Forst. f.) R. Br. ex Hook. f. (bindweed) Sydney Parkinson

Plate 4 Mueblenbeckia complexa (tororaro or pohuehue)

Plates 4 to 7 are engravings made from Sydney Parkinson's illustrations. His original watercolour of this plant was completed in 1775 by John Cleveley. The specimen was collected at Tolaga Bay in October 1769. Tororaro is a member of the Polygonaceae, a family that includes docks, sorrels and rhubarb. There are about twenty species of Mueblenbeckia, which occur in Australasia and South America; five of them are found in New Zealand. This species grows in dryish places as a tangled bush or low climber in coastal, lowland and lower montane forests, especially on their margins, as well as in open and rocky places. The small leaves have blades from a half to two centimetres long and are of variable shape, often with several leaf forms on the one plant, as the illustration shows. There are separate male and female flowers on different plants.

The plant illustrated is a female one, with flowers and fruits. A male flower, detached from a male plant, is shown at lower right. Muehlenbeckia flowers are very distinctive. Five perianth parts (not clearly differentiated into separate sepals and petals) are fused into a basal cup, which surrounds the stamens in male flowers and the ovary in female flowers. On top of the ovary of each female flower are three frilly stigmas. As the fruit ripens in the centre of a female flower, the translucent, white perianth becomes fleshy. The fruit is a shiny black, triangular nut.

Courtesy of the Director, National Museum, Wellington

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Plate 4 Muehlenbeckia complexa (A. Cunn.) Meissn. (tororaro or pohuehue) Engraving from Parkinson's painting

Plate 4 Muehlenbeckia complexa (A. Cunn.) Meissn. (tororaro or pohuehue) Engraving from Parkinson's painting

Food (fish, birds and scurvy grass) was plentiful, and twenty-two days were spent there — the longest stay at one place in New Zealand. Banks and his party were ashore on nineteen of these days and recorded about 220 plants. Some of these were novelties to them, and Sydney Parkinson illustrated the wild Spaniard, Aciphylla squarrosa; the common, large-leaved lowland coprosma or kanono, Coprosma australis (Coprosma grandifolia); and the southern rata, Metrosideros umbellata. Parkinson's illustration of the small coastal herb Selliera radicans (Plate 5) was also made in Queen Charlotte Sound.

On 6 February the Endeavour left Queen Charlotte Sound, passed through Cook Strait and headed north to complete the circumnavigation of the North Island. Cook then circumnavigated the South Island, beginning in the northeast, and reached Admiralty Bay west of Queen Charlotte Sound on 26 March. To the frustration of Joseph Banks, no visits ashore were made during this circumnavigation, but a few days were spent provisioning the ship. Banks and Solander, after climbing a nearby hill, found three new plants, one of which was the daisy Celmisia gracilenta. The Endeavour left New Zealand on 31 March 1770. Of the 175 days spent in New Zealand waters, only fifty-five days were spent at anchor.

Banks and Solander's collection of around 360 plant species was the first made of New Zealand plants. As Dr Godley has pointed out (in D. J. Carr (ed.), Sydney Parkinson, 1983), their collection was a comprehensive one of coastal and lowland plants of northern New Zealand, made possible by "the happy chance of a visit during the spring and summer".

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Plate 5 Selliera radicans

This creeping herb, which grows on damp sand flats, coastal muds and in rocky places within the reach of salt spray, was painted by Parkinson in Queen Charlotte Sound. The painting was finished by F. P. Nodder in 1782. The leaves are fleshy and the lop-sided (zygomorphic) flowers have white petals with light blue or pink stripes. Selliera radicans occurs in the North and South Islands and on Stewart Island, as well as in Tasmania, southeast Australia and Chile. It is a member of the predominantly Australian family Goodeniaceae.

Courtesy of the Director, National Museum, Wellington

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Plate 5 Selliera radkans Cav. Engraving from Parkinson's painting

Plate 5 Selliera radkans Cav. Engraving from Parkinson's painting

Plate 6 Geranium microphyllum

This engraving was made from a watercolour Sydney Parkinson painted at Tolaga Bay in October 1779. Geranium microphyllum is found in lowland to montane grassland throughout the North and South Islands, Stewart Island, and the Auckland and Campbell Islands. A description of this species was not published until 1844, after J.D. Hooker had visited the Auckland Islands. Geranium is a large cosmopolitan genus of about 400 species, five of which occur naturally in New Zealand. Geranium microphyllum is a small plant with straggling stems. The illustration shows flower buds, flowers and immature fruits. The petals are white, as in this specimen, or pinkish.

Courtesy of the Director, National Museum, Wellington

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plate 6 Geranium microphyllum Hook. f. Engraving from Parkinson's painting

plate 6 Geranium microphyllum Hook. f. Engraving from Parkinson's painting

Unless a species was in flower, or bore fruit that indicated a relationship with another plant that was flowering, it could not be identified; there were at that time no criteria for classifying plants on the basis of vegetative material alone. Nearly two-thirds of the 360 species were illustrated by Sydney Parkinson. Most illustrations were incomplete, but all but a few contained sufficient detail for them to be completed by other artists.