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

Conditions of use


Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Early New Zealand Botanical Art

Henry Field's life

Henry Field's life

Henry Claylands Field was born in Holybourne, Hampshire, England, in 1825. He was educated at Stockwell Grammar School, the City of London School, and at King's College, London. He chose civil engineering for a career and was an articled pupil of Sir John Rennie, a famous engineer who completed the construction of the new London Bridge, which his father had designed. In 1845 Henry Field began working for an English railway company, then in 1851 he emigrated to New Zealand on the Simla. He was appointed clerk and engineer to the Wanganui Town Board, and subsequently acted as engineer or consulting engineer for a number of roads boards, being responsible for the construction of 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometres) of roads, including the Parapara Road between Wanganui and Taupo.

page 112

Field played an active part in public life and was for many years vice-president of the Wanganui Horticultural Society, president of the Wanganui Harmonic Society and a member of the Anglican Diocesan Synod and General Synod. He retired from active engineering work in 1884. Information is not readily available on Henry Field's wife, who bore him five daughters and six sons. Field noted in his book that four of his sons were, or had been, employed as government surveyors and that they, and his two other sons, collected many ferns for him. He himself had hunted ferns from north of Auckland to the Otago goldfields.

Following the publication of his book, Henry Field wrote five brief papers on ferns, which were published in the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute. They were based mostly on material sent by readers of his book. Although he commented on what he considered to be new species, he did not formally describe them in these papers. Field also wrote articles on astronomy and biology for the Wanganui Chronicle. His last paper for the Transactions was in 1905, and in this he mentioned that he had become blind.

Plate 39 Blechnum, Gleichenia, Trichomanes and Phymatosorus

1.   1A Vegetative and reproductive leaves of Blechnum capense (named as Lomaria procera in Field's book) are depicted here. Blechnum is the only genus of higher ferns in New Zealand to have markedly different, large, green, sterile leaves and brown fertile ones. Blechnum capense, the kiokio, is abundantly distributed in lowland to alpine forest in North, South and Stewart Islands, the Kermadec, Chatham, Auckland, Campbell and Antipodes Islands. It is a complex species, consisting of at least four separate forms. The kiokio occurs too in Australia, Tasmania, the Pacific Islands, Malaysia, South Africa, South America and the West Indies.

2.     Gleichenia dicarpa {Gleichenia circinata), the swamp umbrella fern, is common throughout New Zealand in open scrublands. A small-leaved alpine form, variety alpina, thrives in mountain swamps, although it descends to sea level in the south of the South Island. Swamp umbrella fern occurs too in Australia, New Caledonia and Malaysia.

3.     Trichomanes (Cardiomanes) reniforme, the kidney fern, is shown also in Georgina Hetley's watercolour (Plate 38). It is abundant in lowland forest throughout New Zealand. The common name derives, of course, from the shape of the leaves. The sporangia are borne in vase-like structures around the upper semi-circular margin of each leaf.

4.     Phymatosorus (Phymatodes) diversifolius. This too is a very common fern. It has a creeping stem (rhizome), which lies on the surface of the ground or on tree trunks. A fern that has been subjected to many name changes, it is known as Polypodium billardieri in Field's book. The specific name diversifolius refers to the varied shape of the leaves, as indicated in the plate. The dark rounded spots on two of the leaves (4 and 4B) show the position of hemispherical clusters of sporangia. As well as occupying a wide range of altitude throughout New Zealand, this fern is found in Australia, Tasmania and Polynesia.

The illustrations in this Plate are, as in Field's book, two-thirds actual size.

page break
Plate 39 Blecbnum capense (L.) Schlecht.; Gleichenia dicarpa R. Br.; Trichomanes reniforme Forst. f.; Phymatosorus diversifolius (Willd.) Pichi Serm. Henry Field

Plate 39 Blecbnum capense (L.) Schlecht.; Gleichenia dicarpa R. Br.; Trichomanes reniforme Forst. f.; Phymatosorus diversifolius (Willd.) Pichi Serm. Henry Field

page 113

Henry Field had previously written another book, but on quite a different topic — Modern Light on Christianity. Being a criticism of the principal legends, and notes on modern religious knowledge, and on the Christian thought of the present day appeared in 1903, published by the author and printed by A. D. Willis.

Henry Field died in 1911, aged eighty-seven.