W hat I believe to be genuine and authentic the collected publications of William Colenso

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Among the interesting plants I obtained this day, was a species of Gentiana (G. saxosa, var.,):—a small prostrate species of Coprosma (C. repens), bearing large succulent orange-coloured fruit, each berry often containing 4 nuts; this species seems identical with one found by Sir J. Hooker in the Antarctic Islets, of which a plate is given in the Flora Antartica (tab. 16): two species of Epilobium, one being E. Billardierianum: and a new species of Acæna (A. microphylla),—this last pretty little plant with its crimson fruit pleased me much. A. Cunningham’s fragrant little heath-like plant (Leucopogon Frazeri) was common to-day, in many spots on those dry hills and plains; its flowers are certainly foremost among the sweet-scented ones of N.Z., of which there are not many. The whole plant being so very small and insignificant, yet often filling the air with its delightful odour, brought Wordsworth’s suitable line to mind,—

“The flower of sweetest smell is shy and lowly.”

14th. As we had no time to lose if we were ever to gain our goal!—the villages of Patea,—we rose early and crossed the head of the Waikato river (which is the outlet of Rotoaira Lake) at 5.30. Winding round the base of Tongariro, over undulating ground, we halted at 7.30 to breakfast by the side of a mountain stream of very cold and pure water, which ran bounding and sparkling in the sun among the rocks. At 9 o’clock we recommenced our journey, and travelled steadily on. During the former part of this day, I met with several Botanical novelties:—e.g.—a very handsome full-flowered Cyathodes (C. Colensoi), a low bushy shrub of depressed growth, some plants bearing white and some red berries in profusion; this will become a garden flower:—the abnormal prostrate species of “Pines” Dacrydium laxifolium and Podocaipus nivalis, were also here, in many places completely matting the surface:—also, two or three species (or varieties) of Gaultheria,—one, in particular, having plenty of good edible fruit; another was very curious and interested me much,— it was plentiful and grew prostrate, having a racemose inflorescence, and baccate calyx which gave it a singular appearance as if double-fruited,—this is, I think, var. e. of Sir J. Hooker’s G. rupestris:—a distinct species of Epacris (E. alpina), was also here, but, unfortunately, it was not fully in flower:—in damp spots (but only in two places) two curious species of Drosera were found,—D. binata remarkably fine, and the much rarer one D. Arcturi, a plant of the Australian and Tasmanian mountains,—the only time I ever met with this latter species; together with a rather scarce Orchideous plant, Prasophyllum nudum;—and, in the thickets adjoining, by the sides of the mountain streams, Phyllocladus alpinus, and several species1075 of Aristotelia with small leaves were noticed. A peculiar small Restiaceous plant, a species of Calorophus, was also obtained here in a [40] boggy spot;—I had found a similar plant several years before in bogs at Whangarei, and near Cape Maria van Diemen,—but in each locality only a little of it: of the Cyperaceous Order, I collected two new species of Schœnus (S. concinnus, and S. parviflorus), Carpha alpina, Isolepis Aucklandica, and also several species of Carex, among them being a British species C. stellulata. In dry gravelly spots I also detected Asperula perpusilla, (which I had last year discovered in similar situations at the base of the Tararua range in Palliser Bay,) and the moss-like tufted Raoulia australis was not unfrequent. Many beautiful plants of the Lichen Order I also met with; prominent among them were several species of Cladonia, particularly C. C. capitellata, aggregata, retipora, and cornucopioides,—this last strongly reminding me of the pretty (never-to-be-forgotten) British species C. bellidioides, which, at first, I supposed it to be, from its bright vermilion-red globular tubercles springing from the edges of its tiny cups; C. retipora, often found in large tufts in undisturbed spots, is one of the most elegant of Lichens; its regular reticulated open structure is wonderful! A few curious Fungi, new to me, I also obtained; and in a still-water reach in a streamlet I came upon a large mass of that peculiar fresh-water Alga, Batrachospermum moniliforme,—the only place I ever found it in N.Z.

At 3 p.m. we crossed the sandy desert called Te Onetapu,—a most desolate weird-looking spot, about 2 miles wide where we crossed it,—a fit place for Macbeth’s witches! or Faustus’ Brocken scene! about it, too, the old Maoris have many peculiar stories and superstitious fears; some of which, I have no doubt, are agglutinated around a nucleus of reality. Here and there burnt logs lay, scattered and imbedded in the volcanic sand, as if where a fiery eruption from the neighbouring volcano had issued forth in times long past upon the then living forest; I noticed, also, that much of these anciently charred logs and pieces wore a highly polished and semi-glazed appearance, as if from the ever drifting sand. I was so struck with the appearance of some of the half-burnt timber, apparently so aged—or of old time, yet retaining all its vessels and ducts, that I collected a few specimens, and subsequently sent them to England for high microscopical investigation. On the edges of this lonely desert, a lovely Gentiana flourished in all its beauty, probably G. pleurogynoides, (another fine garden flower,) also Celmisia spectabilis, most luxuriant in gloriously fine tufts or tussocks, and with it grew a much smaller and different looking species of Celmisia (C. glandulosa), for the first time here found, and both species tolerably plentiful. Very curiously also was the formation, or more correctly speaking,— the state in which the old land was left in many spots on the W. edges of this desert. Table-topped mounds, from 6 to 10 feet high, having perpendicular cliffy sides, each containing only a few perches of land, and rising like little islets separated from each other by the barren white sandy arms of the desert, were [41] common; their mounds, or islets, abounded in a peculiar vegetation, which I greatly wished to know more of,—but alas! I was sadly pressed for time; and I was already more than prudently overloaded for the unknown mountain journey before me. It was difficult, too, to climb up on them, although I did manage to get on two. Here I obtained an elegant dwarf Dacrydium, (a “Pine” tree, allied to the large Rimu, Dacrydium cupressinum,) rooting up a few old trees or specimens of a foot or 18 inches high, in full fruit! reminding me of the quaint yet symmetrical little trees so greatly prized by the Chinese for their gardens. This plant is allied to the large species (D. Colensoi) of the Northern1076 forests, but, as I take it, is specifically distinct. Rain overtook us shortly after our crossing the desert, which we were sorry for, but there was no help for it, there being no kind of shelter nor water at hand, so we travelled on, in the pelting rain which was from the S. and in our faces, getting wet weary and dispirited, eagerly looking out for a fit halting place but finding none; to make matters worse, our guide more than once told us, he was “all at sea!” as to the proper course, because the rain hid the hills on all sides (and everything else) from his view, so that he could not see the land marks! We kept on—on—on, however, until 7 p.m. (dark), when finding water we were obliged to halt in a deep gulley by the side of a Fagus wood, where everything around for miles of fern or scrub had been very lately burnt off! We had been travelling through this black country for more than an hour, in hopes of seeing its end, but in vain! Here, where we were, we could not find a level spot on which to put up our tent, so, in the darkness and the rain, were obliged to dig away with our axes on the steep side of the hill before we could set it up! That night was a terrible one of wind and rain; insomuch that we expected every moment to be smothered in our half-pitched tent: few of us slept that night.

20th. Our most wretched night was followed by a dirty lowering morning, with furious wind and heavy rain, it was also bitterly cold. We were here caught in a southerly gale, in one of the worst spots possible in the whole N. Island of N.Z., and we could not help ourselves. To retrace our steps and go back to Taupo (over Te Onetapu desert) our guide flatly refused, and my natives joined him;— he saying, that high desert sand was now covered with snow, and that from the falling snow and sleet he could not tell the course,—which, perhaps, was really the case. From him we had the story of 70 men having been once lost at one time in attempting to cross that place in snowy weather. Murmurs, throughout this wretched long and dreary day, reached my ears,—of my having been the means of bringing on this weather! through my uprooting some small trees (Dacrydiums), and my crossing the desert without observing certain superstitious ceremonies, and my sacrilegiously eating some Gaultheria berries while crossing, [42] which the guide had detected!! &c., &c. The worst to me, was,—(1) that I could not get anything whatever to lay on the wet mud floor of my tent! nor fern, nor grass, nor leafy shrubs, were there to be found,—all had been destroyed by fire; the very lower branches of the Fagus trees in the wood before us having been scorched: (2) that we had scarcely anything to eat: (3) that my specimens were being spoiled, which caused me to fret pretty considerably: and (4) that, at the rate it was then raining, when the gale should abate, the rivers we should have to cross would be unfordable for some days! As the day began so it closed,—no change whatever in the weather, save that, even about us at our considerably lower altitude, the rain was changed to sleet and snow! I shudder now, while writing, in thinking of that wretched time, though more than 80 years have since passed. Often enough did those highly suitable words at my favourite old poet Ossian, cross my memory:—“It is night, I am alone, forlorn on the hill of storms. The wind is heard on the mountain. The torrent pours down the rock. No hut receives me from the rain; forlorn on the hill of winds!” (Songs of Selma.) Their suitability being so much the more increased through the superstitious talk and fears of some of my natives, who insisted on it, that the sounds they heard among the fitful ravings of the blast among the trees, were not merely those of the trees creaking and of the denizens of that forests—parrots, owls, and wood-hens (Ocydromus australis), but of the justly irate Patupaiarehe (wood Nymphs or Fairies), or of the ghosts of the dead! just indeed as Ossian has it.—

Alas! the old fable-existences are no more,
The fascinating race has emigrated.1077

21st. Sunday. Another wet and uncomfortable day. The wind, however, had lessened a little, and we could now manage to make up a fire,—which we could not do yesterday. Not really knowing how far we were from help, I could only allow two tea-cups of rice for all my natives (6 in number) for breakfast, and two for their dinner,—and for supper one cup of rice was all that could be spared, which, with a few scraps of bacon fat and a little salt, made a mess of pottage! At consultation this evening we agreed to start early in the morning; I privately requested Paora, and two other of my natives from Hawke’s Bay whom I could trust, to keep a good watch over our Taupo guide, lest he should give us the slip; a trick I had been served more than once in former travelling. Indeed, to prevent this, on this occasion, I had determined, if needs be, to bind him till morning.

22nd. Up early this morning and left our wretched encampment at 6 o’clock. The frost was heavy and it was bitterly cold, insomuch that we could scarcely [43] fold up the tent. Unfortunately, however, the ice on the many pools and stream-lets we had to cross, after gaining the brow of our hill, was not thick enough to bear one’s weight, and so we were obliged to go through it! crash! souse! into the cold water, of which my poor companions with their naked feet loudly complained. Here, in one of those watery hollows and partly submerged, (owing, no doubt, to the late rains,) grew a little shrubby plant, which I had not before seen, and never again found; I knew it to be allied to our Geniostoma, and it has proved to be a species of Logania (L. depressa). It cost me a good wetting and cold shivering to get specimens. It was nearly 9.30 before we halted to breakfast, which we did on the banks of the river Moawhango, where we roasted our roast!—a few potatoes which we had carefully reserved from Saturday, my natives having then said, “they could travel better on roasted potatoes than on rice.1078 In this locality I was fortunate enough to find a few new plants, which pleased me much; among which were, a fine Ranunculus (R. geraniifolius), a single plant only, but a large tufted one affording several specimens; curiously enough, I never again met with this species. Here, in higher open grounds, grew that peculiar dwarf species of Carmichaelia (C. nana), just rising an inch or two above the soil! well do I remember breaking my tough old Manuka maori spear (used by me for many a year as a travelling staff) in attempting to lift a bit of it! A plant of Liliaceæ, also, grew here plentifully in one large spot, but unfortunately it had lately been burnt off, so that there were no perfect specimens to be bad; however, I got a few good seeds, and a small root or two, as well as some poor specimens; and from those roots I subsequently obtained good flowering plants at the Station,—when I was delighted to find it to be a species of Chrysobactron—that glorious plant of Lord Auckland’s group and Campbell’s Island!—of which I had seen specimens with Sir Jos. Hooker, and also heard so much of from him and the other officers of the Antarctic Expedition in 1841. Gladly did I name it, (in sending specimens and seeds to England, to Sir W. Hooker,) C. Hookeri,—to keep company with the other species of that new genus which Sir Jos. Hooker had named after the Commander of that Expedition, C. Rossii:—in the “Hand Book”, however, both have been referred to the older genus, Anthericum, from which they were scarcely generically distinct. The seeds of this plant sent to Kew grew and flowered [44] there. This plant with many others from the interior—among which were, Ranunculus insignis, Stackhousia minima, Epilobium Billardierianum, Aciphylla Colensoi, Forstera Bidwillii, Wahlenbergia saxicola, Gentiana montana, Calceolaria repens, Veronica sp., Libertia micrantha, Callixene parviflora, Cordyline Banksii and C. indivisa, and Gymnostichum gracile,—did exceedingly well in my garden at the Mission Station, nearly all of them flowering every year,—at the shaded S.E. end of my large house; but when that was burnt down in 1853, all, of course, went with it!

We travelled on pretty steadily all this long day until 8 p.m. without halting, when we threw ourselves down among the fern quite exhausted and spiritless;—not knowing how much further we had to go before we should reach this long-looked for Patea. Our guide, who had been lagging behind, although he had no load to carry, had sunk down some time before, declaring he could go no further, being faint through hunger! so, taking from him the course we were to steer (as far as he knew), we left him, believing that a good nap would refresh him. After a while, we arose from our fern couch, hunger-impelled, and having broken off the tops of the branches of the large and many-headed cabbage trees (Cordyline australis), which grew close by, and which the light of the moon revealed, we made a fire and roasted the stalks of the young leaves, which, though both tough and bitter, served to allay our pangs. The Cordyline trees of these parts are the largest I have ever seen, they are not only high and many-branched, but bulky also in the trunk. I remember one, in which a native of Patea had made a house, or room, and fitted it with a door to keep his tools, baskets, &c., in; I went into it, and stood upright within it, the tree was living and healthy; I took down its exact girth, 20 ft. 2in. The whole route this day was very hilly and broken, with occasional heavy entangled forests, without the least vestige of any track; we having been obliged to keep much on the higher grounds so as to avoid the streams in the valleys, which were overflowing rapid and dangerous; fortunately for us the open country was much more grassy than we had hitherto found it. During the day I subsisted on a raw potatoe (which I kept nibbling) and a few Gaultheria berries;—in addition thereto following out the Maori plan of “hauling in the slack” (in nautical language), or, in other words, of tightening up my travelling belt; which I have always found in times of severe hunger to be of great service,—although it makes it dangerous for stooping low. That night we all slept just as we were in the fern around the fire.

23rd. Very early this morning our “guide”, following our track, came up to us before we were well awake, and finding from him that we were, at last! really near the Patea villages, I, after he had rested awhile and eaten some roasted cabbage-tree leaf-stalks, sent him on to the nearest village, to inform the natives of our arrival and hungry state. A long night’s sound sleep had done him [45] a deal of good; he appearing a different man altogether, although he had had nothing to eat, and had passed the night without fire. At 6 a.m. we, also, managed to hobble after him, stiff enough! following his track; and by 7.30 we were loudly welcomed into a little outlying plantation village of only 2 huts, but where we found a feast awaiting us, in baskets of hot and smoking cooked potatoes! to which we all did justice. Breakfast and prayers over, we had to resume our journey, to reach Matuku, the principal village of these parts, where the chief, Te Kaipou, and most of his tribe resided; a messenger having early been sent thither from this village to apprise him of our approach. Travelling along over a beaten track for 3 or 4 miles we reached Matuku, but found the Chief and most of his people absent,—some at their distant and scattered cultivations here and there in the forests, and some a pig-hunting. In our way to Matuku we crossed the river Moawhango without seeing it! for it ran at a great depth below us in the earth; the width of the rift or cleft in the stony soil was only at top about 10–12 feet, and across this were laid the trunks of two small trees, over which the natives of the place ran with naked feet like birds! I did not like it, but there was no help for it; I almost thought I could have jumped over it; but there was no room to take a run for the spring. The natives told me that the fissure continued for a long way, and that it was pretty uniform in width (though very likely this was its narrowest), and that a small canoe could pass through on the river. The sides seemed, as far as I could see down them pretty steep; I could not, however, see the water below; and I had no time to spare in closely examining it.1079 I noticed Stellaria parviflora here growing in large quantities in dry spots. The village of Matuku is picturesquely situated on the ridge and summit of a very high hill, rising abruptly in the midst of these immense primæval forests which surround it for miles on every side. One great disadvantage was its want of good water, there being none within a mile, at least, and that at the foot of a long hill in the forest. True, they had little pits dug near at the base of a spur, but the water was little in quantity, and not drinkable, from having some salt in it, that deposited its efflorescence on the clay around. The view from this place was very extensive solemn and grand, overlooking miles of forests, with the eternal mountains uprearing their heads and peaks around. On the E. and S. was the great Ruahine range with the many isolated spurs and ridges of its Wn. flank, here rising abruptly, and looking like a formidable barrier to our progress that way! On the W. was Taranaki (Mount Egmont), and on the N.W. Paratetaitonga, Ruapehu, and Tongariro,—and still further N. was the Kaimanawa range; of all these, Paratetaitonga and Ruapehu were now [46] well-covered with snow. The natives of the place pointed out to me the W. peaks on the Ruahine, to which we had advanced 2 years before.—

—— “Once again

Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
That on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion.”

I should not, however, have recognised them; indeed the whole appearance of that range was strangely different from what it is on the E. side; one huge table-topped spur, projecting towards the N., and uprearing its dark and sharp outline against the sky, interested me greatly; it seemed so much like a built-up rampart; the natives call it Te Papaki-a-kuutaa; of this very peculiar place more anon.

Paora, my companion also on that occasion, was now “in clover” here among his mother’s relatives; they had found the scrap he had written on bark, and left at a village some 3–4 miles nearer than this to the Ruahine range, but it was long (more than a year) before they had got it decyphered and read to them! Still it was (as we now found) of service. It was evening before the Chief and the main body of his people arrived; and we spent a large portion of the night in deep conversation. Found them very ignorant of everything foreign (as was to be expected), but most pleasingly simple and willing to be taught. They were all dressed in true Maori costume, in mats of various kinds of their own manufacture, some of which were made from the Toii (Cordyline indivisa); without a single article of European clothing among them.

From this place and its neighbourhood I obtained many interesting plants1080 on several subsequent visits, but on this occasion none, for we had still that altogether new and unknown journey before us—to climb and cross the Ruahine range, and I had already concluded to leave here on our return to-morrow, having (unfortunately) arranged, before I left the Station, to be at Waipukurau on the 1st of March, to marry 9 young Christian couples, who would assemble there with their relatives and friends from several places round about for that purpose; their neat new chapel which had been some time in hand, was also to be finished for that occasion;1081 and we had already spent more than a fortnight in reaching this place by the “round-about-way” of Taupo. I knew, too, that my natives would be sure to leave this place heavily loaded with potatoes and pork as food for our homeward journey. To their great credit be it told, that though they had recently endured so much and needed rest, they all agreed to recommence [47] our toil to-morrow, rather than disappoint the folks at Waipukurau; Paora arranging to re-visit his relatives here on his own account before long.—

24th. Very busy all this morning with the natives of this place, who were much troubled at our leaving them so soon, and did all they could to keep us, in which the appearance of the weather helped them not a little, for the Ruahine range was completely enveloped in fogs and clouds, which the natives asserted was a sure sign of heavy rain or snow being about to fall. I too, I confess, was very unwilling to leave—but go we must, duty called. We promised to visit them again next summer (which we did). Our Taupo guide, who was quite at home—through some distant relationship—would probably remain a month or two, or until spring.

Some years after, while staying at this village, I noticed a curious feature in Natural History, which I may mention here. On that occasion I had gone thither by another route,—(Ngaruroro river and Kuripapango ford,)—it was early summer (October), and snow had fallen pretty heavily, yet quietly, during the night, and in the morning the whole village was a few inches deep in snow, while the great mountain range rising close before me was looking sublime. (I copy from my Journal.) “Close to the village, and even within its fence, were several very large Kowhai trees (Edwardsia grandiflora1082), these were covered with their golden flowers, and mostly without leaves. The sun was shining brightly, and the parrots flocked screaming from the forests around to the Edwardsia blossoms; it was a strange sight to see them, how deftly they managed to go out to the end of a long lithe branch, (preferring to walk parrot-fashion!) and there swinging, back downwards, lick out the honey with their big tongues, without injuring the young fruit! … For seeing but very few petals falling (and those only vexillæ), I sent some of the boys to climb the trees and bring me several marked flowering branches, which had been visited by the parrots. I found, that all of the fully expanded flowers had had the upper part of their calyces torn open, and the uppermost petal (vexillum) torn out; this the parrots had done to get at the honey. As the flowers are produced in large thick bunches, some are necessarily twisted or turned upside down; still it was always that peculiar petal and that part of the calyx (though often in such cases undermost) which had been torn away. Through this no injury was done to the young enclosed fruit, which would in all probability have been the case if any of the other petals had been bitten off. It cannot be said, that it is owing to the vexillum being the largest petal (as it is in many papilionaceous flowers) that it is thus laid hold of and torn away by the parrot, such not being the case in this genus; for the long fruit runs down through the two carinated lowermost petals, that are often quite 2 in. long, and is further protected by the two side ones

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