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

The third voyage

page 53

The third voyage

In 1835, when d'Urville had completed his account of the voyage, he was posted to dockyard duties in Toulon, where it seemed his career might end in obscurity. Undaunted by the rather hostile attitude of some naval authorities, Dumont d'Urville pressed for command of his ship and drew up a project for further research and exploration in southern regions. It was a propitious time for such a suggestion. King Louis-Phillipe, who succeeded Charles X when the latter abdicated, was well aware that his reign so far lacked the sort of adventurous exploits that were dear to the hearts of his subjects. He therefore accepted the proposals of d'Urville, which the naval authorities had passed on to him, but added a modification to the plans. Dumont d'Urville was ordered to take the French flag as far south as possible in the Weddell Sea, within the Antarctic Circle. Each of the crew was promised 100 francs if the latitude of 75° S was reached, and ten francs for every degree of latitude beyond that. The British and Americans too were interested in .exploring southern polar regions. Ross's expedition set out in 1839,  and the second United States Expedition, authorised by Act of Congress in 1836 and led by Wilkes, set out in 1838.

Two corvettes took part in the expedition: the Astrolabe under d'Urville, and the Zélée captained by d'Urville's second-in-command on the previous voyage, Charles Jacquinot. Botanical collecting was assigned to Jacques Bernard Hombron (1800-52), senior surgeon of the Astrolabe, and Honore Jacquinot (b. 1814), junior surgeon on the Zélée and younger brother of the captain. Two other surgeons on the Zélée also served as naturalists: Elie Jean Francoise Le Guillou and Jules Grange. D'Urville, who "was planning to botanise only as a simple amateur", did contribute to collections made on the voyage. Dumont d'Urville was forty-seven when the Astrolabe and Zélée sailed from Toulon on 7 September 1837, returning there on 7 November 1840. The vessels reached polar regions in February 1838, and d'Urville named parts of the Antarctic coast on the west side of the Weddell Sea (for example, Joinville Land, after one of Louis-Phillipe's sons).

In March they withdrew to the north after fruitless attempts to penetrate the pack ice and headed for Chile. Then the expedition spent twenty-one months exploring the islands of the Pacific and reached Hobart in December 1839. There, spurred on by news of the polar expeditions of Ross and Wilkes and lured by the quest for the South Magnetic Pole, d'Urville decided to ignore his written orders and head south again. A number of the crew of both ships had become ill during the voyage to Hobart and were hospitalised there, so d'Urville and Jacquinot hired some English seamen. The Astrolabe and Zélée headed south on New Year's Day

1840,  and on 21 January they set foot on islands off the Antarctic coast, naming Adelie Land after d'Urville's wife and Cote Clarie after Jacquinot's. When they encountered one of the ships of Wilkes' expedition, the rival vessels apparently ignored each other. The cruise in Antarctic waters was brief and on 17 February the Astrolabe and Zélée returned to Hobart. Eight page 54 days later they set off for New Zealand via the Auckland Islands and Stewart Island, sailing up the east coast of both islands. When they reached Akaroa, it was learned that Captain Hobson had arrived in the Bay of Islands two months previously and had been appointed governor of New Zealand. D'Urville's diary reveals his disappointment that the British had claimed all of New Zealand, especially as he knew that sixty French colonists were on their way to Akaroa on Le Comte de Paris. When the Astrolabe and Zélée reached the Bay of Islands, d'Urville met Hobson and from there sailed for France.

The crews of the Astrolabe and Zélée received a warm welcome on their return to France, and d'Urville was promoted to rear-admiral and the crew received financial rewards from Louis-Phillipe for "their heroic exploits". It had not been an easy voyage for, of the combined crew of 165 officers and men, twenty-two had died and thirteen deserted. Another of d'Urville's sons died in France during his absence. (A daughter had died of cholera when the family were together in Toulon in 1835. Jules and Adele Dumont d'Urville apparently had four children of whom three were boys.)

Again by royal command, d'Urville began to prepare an account of the voyage for publication. This Voyage an Pôle Sud et dans I'Océanie sur les corvettes l'Astrolabe et la Zelee, exécuté par ordre du Roi pendant les années 1837-1838-1839-1840, sous le commandement de M.J. Dumont d'Urville was published in twenty-three parts (in twenty-two volumes), with an Atlas of seven parts (bound into five volumes), between 1841 and 1854. Sadly, Dumont d'Urville did not live to see its completion. He, his wife and their surviving son were burned to death in a horrifying train accident on the Paris-Versailles line. D'Urville had seen the first two volumes of the narrative of the voyage through the press; it was completed by his friend Vincendon-Dumoulin, marine engineer on the Astrolabe, who had access to his papers.

The botanical section, Voyage au Pôle Sud. . . Botanique, under the general supervision of Hombron and Jacquinot, appeared in two volumes in 1845 and 1853, together with an atlas of sixty-five plates (twenty in colour) in 1852. The first volume (1845) dealt with lower, non-vascular plants and was written by Jean Pierre Francois Camille Montagne (1784-1866), who had been a military physician but was then a private scientist in Paris. Montagne was a prolific author of works on lower plants. When Hombron died in 1852, the text describing the vascular plants (ferns, conifers and flowering plants) collected during the voyage had not been written. This task was taken on by Decaisne of the Paris Museum, who had drawn plants for the Atlas of the Coquille voyage. This second volume is only some ninety-six pages in length. In contrast to the first volume, only those plants illustrated in the Atlas, which had already been published, were described in the text.

Decaisne made a number of corrections to vascular plant names given in the Atlas, but it remains a mystery whether vascular plants other than those illustrated in the Atlas had been collected. Certainly some of specimens page 55 illustrated had been lost by the time Decaisne began his work, and he had to base some descriptions on those in Joseph Hooker's Flora Antarctica. As many botanists have commented, it is surprising that only sixteen species of ferns and eighty-four flowering plants were collected on the expedition — if, in truth, Decaisne's list represented the total number of higher plants collected by several naturalists on such a long voyage. Fifteen of these eighty-four plants were collected from the Auckland Islands (most of these had already been described in Hooker's Flora Antarctica). The Atlas . . . Botanique (1852) comprises sixty-five plates, twenty of which illustrate non-vascular plants. These are in colour. The other forty-five plates are in black and white, and are devoted to ferns and seed plants. In addition to the plants from the Auckland Islands, most plates illustrate plants collected near the Strait of Magellan, South America, but a few New Zealand ones are included, for example, the hen and chicken fern (Asplenium bul-biferum) and a species of bidi-bidi {Acaena sanguisorbe, now known as Acaena anserinifolia). These plates were drawn by a number of artists, none of whom were on the voyage. The chief contributor was Alfred Riocreux. The plates were engraved by more than a dozen highly skilled engravers.

Dumont d'Urville is commemorated in botany by a genus of brown seaweeds, Durvillea, which includes the giant bull kelp, Durvillea antarctic a. This is common on exposed coasts around New Zealand up to the low-tide mark. It was first collected off Cape Horn, and the genus was named by Bory de Saint-Vincent in 1826. He is also remembered in the species names of several New Zealand flowering plants — Dracophyllum urvilleanum, one of our "grass trees" (Plate 47 illustrates a different species of Dracophyllum); Hebe urvilleana and a species of buttercup, Ranunculus urvilleanus. Jules Dumont d'Urville was unusual among the admirals of his time in that he was a knowledgeable naturalist as well as an outstanding seaman and navigator. One wonders, had he lived to direct the completion of Voyage au Pôle Sud, whether the section on botany might not have been more extensive.

page 56

Plate 11 Parsonsia capsularis var. rosea

This twining woody liane (climber), a close relative of the kaihua {Parsonsia hetero-phylla), is a member of the family Apocynaceae, which includes the periwinkles (Vinca) and oleanders (Nerium). The rapidly growing shoots encircle the stems of the supporting forest trees and soon attain full sunlight for the drooping leafy branches. The fragrant clusters of flowers are normally white, but in this variety (originally described by Raoul as a separate species, Parsonsia rosea) the petals are rose to dark red in colour. This variety was originally collected by Raoul near Akaroa and is restricted to the South Island, where it is common on the Port Hills and Banks Peninsula.

Each flower (lower right) has five small, green sepals, five petals, united into a tube for most of their length, and a central, protruding cone of stamens. They are attached basally to the inside of the petal tube and conceal the female part of the flower. This consists of two coherent carpels in the centre of the flower. They develop into pod-like elongated fruits, which become separated from each other and split lengthwise to release numerous seeds, given buoyancy by a tuft of hairs. This illustration from Choix de Plantes by Alfred Riocreux was engraved by Mademoiselle E. Taillant.

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Plate 11 Parsonsia capsularis var. rosea (Raoul) Ckn. Alfred Riocreux (in Raoul's Choix de Plantes)

Plate 11 Parsonsia capsularis var. rosea (Raoul) Ckn. Alfred Riocreux (in Raoul's Choix de Plantes)

Plate 12 Helichrysum aggregatum (Helichrysum glomeratum)

In his original description, Raoul named this plant Swammerdamia (misspelt as Swammerdammia on the illustration) glomerata. Its name was changed to Helichrysum glomeratum by Bentham and Hooker in 1873, and in 1970 it was changed by Yeo to Helichrysum aggregatum. It too was first discovered at Akaroa by Raoul, but it is widely distributed in coastal and lowland shrubland and forest margins throughout the North and South Islands. There are nine endemic species of Helichrysum in New Zealand. About 350 other species of this member of the daisy family (Compositae) occur in Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. Helichrysum aggregatum is a shrub up to three metres high with slender branchlets.

The main illustration is approximately natural size. Figure 1 shows an inflorescence of florets; figure 2, an outer female floret (flower) with its ring of pappus hairs, tubular petals, free at their tips only, and central style, with its terminal, two-part stigma; figure 3, part of a pappus hair; figure 4, a more central disc floret with stamens bearing terminal pollen sacs, bent to the right; figure 5, part of a stamen showing the pollen sacs; figure 6, part of the style and terminal two-part stigma of the female part of a floret. The style is attached at its base to the ovary (not visible in the illustrations), which contains a single ovule (potential seed). This illustration is by Alfred Riocreux from Choix de Plantes and was engraved by Mlle Taillant. The delicate engravings of the French illustrators (PLATES 9 to 12) are quite a contrast to the more robust engravings of many British works (for example, PLATES 4 to 7).

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Plate 12 Helichrysum aggregatum P. F. Yeo. Alfred Riocreux (in Raoul's Choix de Plantes)

Plate 12 Helichrysum aggregatum P. F. Yeo. Alfred Riocreux (in Raoul's Choix de Plantes)

page 57

Plate 13 Sophora tetraptera (kowhai)

This was the first New Zealand plant to be illustrated in Curtis's Botanical Magazine. It appeared as illustration no. 167 in volume 5, 1791, painted by Sydenham Edwards, with explanatory text by William Curtis. The kowhai was collected at Poverty Bay by Banks and Solander on Cook's first voyage in 1769. The seeds they gathered survived the return voyage and, as Solander predicted, the plants that were raised became popular in Britain and were widely cultivated from cuttings and seeds. The specimen illustrated was obtained from the Apothecaries' Garden, Chelsea, where it had been planted about 1774.

There are approximately thirty species of Sophora, in temperate and subtropical regions of both hemispheres. Two of the three New Zealand species of kowhai are endemic {Sophora tetraptera and S. prostrata), the other, S. microphylla, occurs also in Chile and on Gough Island in the South Atlantic. Experiments have shown that the seeds, which float on the sea, will germinate after even three years' immersion. Sophora tetraptera, the largest-leaved kowhai, is restricted in natural vegetation to the east of the North Island, from East Cape to Hawke's Bay and Taihape.

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Plate 13 Sophora tetraptera J. Mill, (kowhai) Sydenham Edwards (in Curtis's Botanical Magazine, 1791)

Plate 13 Sophora tetraptera J. Mill, (kowhai) Sydenham Edwards (in Curtis's Botanical Magazine, 1791)

Plate 14 Pittosporum cornifolium (tawhirikaro)

This illustration, no. 3161 in volume 59, 1832, was by William Hooker himself. The Plate was engraved by Joseph Swan, a Glasgow printer and engraver. The pittosporums include some of our most widely grown native plants. Some of them are popular overseas, especially in parts of California. There are twenty-six species of Pittosporum (family Pittosporaceae) in New Zealand's flora. Some are widespread, others are rare, and all are restricted to the New Zealand region. About 135 species grow in mainly tropical and subtropical regions of the Southern Hemisphere.

Tawhirikaro, or the perching kohuhu, is an open-branched shrub up to two metres tall, which is often perched on large forest trees such as northern rata (Metrosideros robusta) and rimu (Dacrydium cupressinum). It also grows on rocks. In contrast to most other pittosporums, in which the leaves are arranged alternately on the branch-lets, tawhirikaro has leaves arranged mostly in whorls of three to five. The leaves are shiny dark green above and paler below, with very short stalks. Flowers have light red to yellowish petals. There are usually separate male and female flowers, but sometimes bisexual flowers are present too. Each flower is one and a half centimetres in diameter and consists of a ring of five small green sepals with finely tapering tips, five petals, five stamens which are present but sterile on female flowers and a central ovary, which has a reduced sterile form in male flowers. Mature fruits are woody capsules about one and a half centimetres in diameter. While still on the plants, the greenish capsules split open to reveal a red-lined interior with shiny, black seeds embedded in a sticky yellow fluid. Tawhirikaro grows in lowland to lower montane forest throughout the North Island, but occurs only in the north of the South Island from the Marlborough Sounds to Whanganui Inlet. The specimen illustrated was sent to William Hooker from Kew, where it had been introduced by Allan Cunningham.

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Plate 14 Pittosporum cornifolium A. Cunn. William Hooker (in Curtis's Botanical Magazine, 1832)

Plate 14 Pittosporum cornifolium A. Cunn. William Hooker (in Curtis's Botanical Magazine, 1832)