Flora of New Zealand, Volume 4
Naturalised pteridophytes, gymnosperms, dicotyledons
By C. J. Webb, W. R. Sykes, and P. J. Garnock-Jones
Published by Botany
Division, DSIR, Christchurch, New Zealand, 1988
Reviewed by Eric Godley
recent decades we have been fortunate in the regular appearance
of volumes of the "Flora of New Zealand". From the 1960's to the
1980's there have been two on desmids, one on lichens, and four
on pteridophytes and/or seed-plants, whether native or introduced.
Seven volumes is almost as many as were published in all the previous
history of botany in New Zealand. But although a Flora is not now
a rare event, each one is still a milestone in the history of New
Zealand science; and the present volume is no exception. It deals
with 1470 species of naturalised ferns and naturalised dicotyledonous
flowering plants. It describes them, gives information about their
history and distribution in the country, and shows how to differentiate
them one from another in keys and illustrations. It is the first
time that there has been a Flora of these plants since H. H. Allan's
"Handbook of the naturalised flora of New Zealand" in 1940.
This book is of course
essential for anyone working on naturalised plants, whether in town
or country, gardens, parks, reserves, roadsides, fresh waters, river
beds, dairy pastures, high country runs, and so on. But it is also
a contribution to our knowledge of native plants and is necessary
for students of them. If a genus includes both naturalised and native
species (such as Senecio), then all the species are described.
Of the 397 native species involved many are described only briefly
because they have been satisfactorily treated in earlier volumes,
but others are more extensively dealt with and much new information
is given about them. As examples one notes the revised treatment
of Acaena contributed by Bryony Macmillan, or the wise
reduction by Colin Webb of the five species of Cassinia
recognised in Allan's Flora to one variable species, Cassinia
leptophylla. Gunnera is also well pruned.
Any keys which I have
tried have worked well, and the comments after the species descriptions
are useful and interesting. In the large Families such as the Rosaceae
the synopsis showing sub-families and the introduced genera belonging
to each is most instructive. And I was glad to find the Families
arranged in alphabetical order. After all, the book is to help identification,
not to demonstrate some phylogenetic system by using only a selection
of the Families. The black-and-white drawings (contributed by five
artists) and the coloured plates are usefully designed to show differences
between related species.
The list of names of
the authors of species with their standard abbreviations is useful
to have, but even more useful would be a note on the derivation
of each generic name. Most of us parrot these off without knowing
what they mean, although the name often gives a clue to some outstanding
character of the genus or is of historical or literary interest.
But if derivations are given it is essential to go back to the original
description to find out the intention of the creator of the genus.
Guessing is no good, however formidable the scholarship. Thus, since
the Flora Novae-Zelandiae, the derivation of Olearia
has been given by New Zealand authors (including Wall and Allan)
as some variant of Hooker's "from Olea, an olive-tree,
which some species resemble." The latest variant is: "the Olearia
tree daisies take their very name from their tomentum Olea
is the genus of the olive, which has silvery tomentum on the underside
of its leaves" (New Zealand's Alpine Plants, inside and out,
by Bill and Nancy Malcolm). Yet if Hooker had looked up Moench's
original description he would have read: "In memoriam. Joannis Gotbofredi
Olearii, auctoris -" etc. etc. In other words the genus Olearia
commemorates a man called Johann Gottfried Oelschlaeger whose account
of the plants of Halle appeared in 1668 and who was known as Olearius
because his name means "oil-presser".
The expense of writing
this work has been borne by the Dept. of Scientific and Industrial
Research the salaries, the typing, the accommodation. But
then it looked as if this good ship was going to be spoilt for the
proverbial ha'porth of tar. There was no money for publication.
The situation was saved by a grant in liberal terms from the Miss
E. L. Hellaby Indigenous Grasslands Research Trust. Miss Hellaby
was one of the three children of the founder of the Meat Company
based in Auckland, and her personal fortune is the basis of the
Trust named after her.
With this volume and
a good hand lens a sizeable chunk of The Plant Kingdom is waiting
to be explored. Nor does one have to go to the headwaters of the
Motu or the steppes of Central Otago to do it. And if we think that
we know all about the weeds under our hedge or on the nearest vacant
section this book will show how wrong we are. And it will also introduce
us to a most interesting group of plants, some benevolent, some
malevolent, but all long-distance travellers, colonists, and survivors,
just like the people who brought them here. For I must emphasise
that this work represents much more than just a book about weeds.
It is a record of one of the most significant periods in the history
of the vegetation and flora of New Zealand. For millions of years
the plants colonising the New Zealand region came over the land.
Then, as New Zealand became isolated, the plants came over the sea
by the agency of wind, currents, and birds, and this still continues.
But over the last few hundred years and particularly the last two
hundred a whole new flora has colonised New Zealand. This was due
to the activities of another species, Homo sapiens, the
most efficient plant disperser of the whole Animal Kingdom. Elsewhere
I have called this the Cookian period because almost all these introductions
by man directly or indirectly have occurred since Cook's voyages.
Volume 4 then, deals with anthropophytes
using that term in a wide sense.
Colin Webb (who was the
coordinator and editor), Bill Sykes, and Phil Garnock-Jones, are
to be congratulated for their documentation of the most important
period in the history of our wild plants since Glacial times.
in New Zealand: Journal of the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture
1990 1(1): 24
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