complete trees and shrubs of New Zealand
Book launch, Auckland
War Memorial Museum, 21 November 2006
It is a great honour
for me to be invited by Audrey and Te Papa Press to launch these
truly magnificent books - Eagle's Complete Trees and Shrubs of
New Zealand, Volumes 1 & 2 - weighing 6 kg, a tome of monumental
This is a very special
occasion in the annals of New Zealand botany, and one unlikely to
be repeated in the foreseeable future. Significantly, it coincides
with the centenary celebration of Thomas Cheeseman's Manual of the
New Zealand Flora published in 1906.
As a country we can be
thankful for the wide range of books, both historic and recent,
illustrating and describing many of the trees and shrubs of New
Zealand. Each of these has a place on our bookshelf or in a reference
library and may be consulted from time to time. Audrey's two volume
collection stands apart from all of these for its comprehensive
and meticulous treatment of our trees and shrubs, whether named
Her first book in 1975
consisted of 228 paintings of New Zealand trees and shrubs, including
coverage of most of the genera recognized at that time; her second
in 1982 complemented this with a further 405 paintings, including
many undescribed plants, a feature of her work.
Now, in 2006, these paintings
have been brought together with the addition of a further 173, giving
a total of around 800 illustrations of species, subspecies, and
unnamed plants; a remarkable lifetime achievement of a talented,
dedicated, and tenacious person, totally devoted to our native plants.
For me the accuracy,
warmth, and human touch of Audrey's paintings are the enduring features
of this collection. With few exceptions the main illustration of
each plant is reproduced life size, thereby aiding in its identification.
The flowers and fruit, often naturally small, are enlarged where
necessary to highlight their principal features and enhance recognition.
At a time when we are
being overwhelmed by DNA sequences, cladograms, phylograms, and
rooted trees of a different kind, it is a welcome relief to turn
the pages of these books and see what real trees look like, and
And talking about turning
pages, I strongly recommend that all future owners of this collection
buy a pair of soft white gloves and put them on whenever you open
the books. That way you will retain your copy of this iconic collection
of New Zealand botanical art and literature in near mint condition.
And to all would be owners
of this collection, not only will you be investing in the life and
work of the celebrated Audrey Eagle, but also in the contribution
of numerous botanists, field naturalists, and others who have helped
in its compilation. As you turn the pages, each of you will know
where your imprint lies. I know of no other work where so many people
have been willing contributors over so many years, and been so generously
I am confident that these
two books will be put to good use as a surrogate herbarium by people
wishing to recognize and know more about our trees and shrubs, especially
since threatened plants, biodiversity, and restoration are topics
of considerable moment. And I fully expect these books to serve
as a benchmark and be regularly cited in future botanical publications
naming and describing our unnamed woody plants. To others still
these books will form a treasured collection of botanical art to
be savoured by their families, friends, and visitors.
Audrey, it has been a
long journey for you, at times tearful and painful but mostly joyous,
especially when presented with a new or difficult-to-find plant
to paint. This evening must rank as the most satisfying in your
eventful life. Sadly, many people who figured prominently in your
early work are not here to share this celebration with you; in particular
your late husband Harold, a stalwart supporter of your work, and
the late Tony Druce, your botanical mentor and arguably our greatest
field botanist. Tony above us all set you on this path and guided
you from the beginning. It is pleasing to see how a younger generation
of botanists and others have stepped up to help you continue on
Ladies and gentlemen,
it is my pleasure, on your behalf, to formally launch Eagle's
Complete Trees and Shrubs of New Zealand, Volumes 1 & 2; to
lavish praise on the author Audrey Eagle for her incredible achievement;
to commend all the contributors, past and present, who helped in
its compilation; and to congratulate Te Papa Press for bringing
this superb production to fruition.
Brian Molloy, Research
Associate Landcare Research, Lincoln.
Eagle was awarded an Associate of Honour of the Royal New Zealand
Institute of Horticulture (AHRIH) in 2002 (see the New Zealand
Garden Journal, Vol. 7, No. 1, June 2004, p.21).