Zealand Plant Collection Register
No. 3: 1st March 1993
Reproduced from an article
by Dr. Keith Hammett
488c Don Buck Road, Massey, Auckland 8, New Zealand
in New Zealand (Journal of the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture),
Vol. 4, No. 1, Summer 1993, pp. 18-28.
New Zealand is very rich
in both native and introduced flora (Webb, Sykes & Garnock-Jones,
1988, Flora of New Zealand vol. IV). It is important
to know not only which plants are in the country but where they
are located and how vulnerable specific taxa might be to loss. This
is especially so for introduced plants and for specific cultivars
since the source of such germplasm, both wild and cultivated, is
being rapidly eroded in some areas and is being made unavailable
from others. New Zealand has already proven itself to be a "Noah's
Ark" for some plants and cultivars.
The Plant Collection
Group of the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture is attempting
to build up a register of plant collections, of all sizes, held
in New Zealand.
Such a register is essential
and will have many uses. It will be of value to nurserymen and gardeners
seeking plants new to their range. It will offer the opportunity
to avoid the reintroduction of germplasm already in the country,
thus reducing the risks of importing further pests and diseases
and the intricacies and delays of quarantine. Plant breeders will
see such a list as a guide to available germplasm for breeding programmes.
However, its most important purpose will be as a guide to the vulnerability
of each species or cultivar. Clearly if plants are grown widely
they are much less likely to be lost than if only a few specimens
exist in one or a few collections.
Often collections exist
only because of the enthusiasm of individuals. Bureaucratic institutions
and commercial operations frequently prove to be poor long-term
custodians of germplasm. Unfortunately valuable collections are
all too often lost when their collectors become too old or die.
Once a register is established the horticultural community will
be in a better position to assess plants and collections which are
vulnerable and steps can be taken to remedy the situation.
The register will never
be complete as plant holdings change constantly. However, it is
hoped that now it has been started it will prove to be a focal point
and enthusiasts will see gaps and will help to keep it as up-to-date
and useful as possible.
Small collections are
as valuable as large ones. In fact taxa may be safer distributed
in a mosaic of many small collections rather than concentrated in
a few large ones. Don't consider your collection too small to list.
You may be the sole holder of a particular plant. Unless it is listed
no one knows. The register was initially compiled in March 1992
from returns received from a questionnaire sent out during 1991
and from letters received in response to an article by Mike Oates
in the June 1989 issue of New Zealand Gardener. Many important
gaps were obvious. Following a limited distribution of the first
version, individuals pointed to unlisted collections and these were
added to the register. This enabled Update No. 2 to be produced
in July 1992. Increased publicity and distribution of the second
list produced a steady flow of information which has almost doubled
the number of collections listed.
At this stage the register
is still best seen as an informal working list rather than an authoritative
one handed down by an august body. It is currently only an index
to collections rather than individual plants. Recently the NZ Lottery
Grant Board made a grant to the RNZIH to investigate the publication
of more detailed information.
Some groups such as the
Herb Federation have already done much valuable work and have started
to publish lists of plants held in various collections. Those collections
detailed in the Herb Federation of New Zealand publication "Individual
Plant Collections" (1992) are indicated by the sign  in this
Similarly, Marion MacKay
has produced the valuable publication "A survey and evaluation of
the distribution of selected exotic tree genera in private collections
in New Zealand" (1990), in association with the New Zealand members
of the International Dendrology Society. The seventeen genera dealt
with in this study are indicated by the sign . At this time,
no attempt has been made to detail in the register separately the
33 collections covered by Marion's survey.
The important work carried
out on individual trees over many years by S.W. Burstall must not
be overlooked and should be seen as an adjunct to the register.
His findings are recorded in eight "Unpublished" reports produced
between 1970 and 1974 as "Historic and Notable Trees of New Zealand".
They cover the country by regions and are cited as Forest Research
Institute Mensuration Reports.
A condensation of this
work was formally published by S.W. Burstall and E.V. Sale as "Great
Trees of New Zealand" (1984) by Reed Publishing. However, it is
the unpublished mensuration reports which are of greatest value
in connection with our current work.
As twenty or more years
have passed since Burstall carried out his work and as he recorded
individual trees distributed widely on properties large and small
(often single trees in suburban home gardens), it is probably not
practicable to integrate his data with this register of collections.
Burstall's work does, however, provide a stunning insight into the
wealth of plant material at our disposal, some indication of the
effort needed to quantify it and just how much one enthusiastic
individual can achieve.
If a wide range of people
connected with plants in New Zealand make a contribution, whether
they be botanists, plant collectors, breeders, nurserymen or home
gardeners, we can produce and maintain a working index of our plant
resource which will benefit both ourselves and will help to ensure
the continued existence of as many plants as possible.
I am very grateful to
all the people who have provided information thus far, and apologise
for not having been able to answer all their letters individually.
If you have information
to contribute to the register please contact: Dr. K. R. W. Hammett,
488c, Don Buck Road, Massey, Auckland 8