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

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I Write this (the fruit of study and research), for the especial benefit of future New Zealand Pteridologists.

Gymnogramme leptophylla. Having the good fortune to possess several drawings and dissections of the European plant, G. leptophilla, with ample descriptions, (viz., in Hook and Greville, Ic. Filicum; Hook, British Ferns, Species Filicum, etc.; T. Moore, Index Filicum; Bentham’s Brit. Flora; Beddome’s Ferns, South India; with others by S. Hibberd, T. Moore, J. Smith, J. G. Baker, etc.) and having also received since writing the foregoing paper, some British specimens of G. leptophyilla from Jersey,—I am inclined to say a little more about our New Zealand plant bearing that name, and to point out wherein it differs from the British and European one. [374]

1. In all those drawings and dissections (except in the plate of G. leptophylla in Beddome’s South India Ferns), though made by different persons, and at widely different times, and not being mere copies from each other, there is a great common likeness—as indeed there should be; but they all show a very much larger, stouter and more leafy and many-fronded plant than our New Zealand one. Sir W.J. Hooker says of the British fern, that “its fronds are all bi-tri-pinnate,” with their “vachises winged above”; (in his large folio drawing, with dissections in the Icones Filicum, the rachis is largely winged below also); such, however is not the case in our New Zealand plant. I have collected scores—perhaps hundreds—of the New Zealand fern (the entire little tufted plant in all its stages) in its two localities (supra), but I have never found one that approached in size or appearance the European one. In fact the New Zealand plant has no such outer (“barren”) pinnated fronds as the British one possesses. The upright fronds of the New Zealand fern are commonly very small, often under 1 inch, and never exceeding 1½ inches, while those of the British plant generally run to 3–4 inches.

2. The New Zealand plant, including its first leaves or small early fronds, has rarely ever a barren one; its first fronds are very small, and often merely kidney-shaped with crenate edges, or small incised lobes, and when tri-lobed or parted, are simply once so, and are then differently lobed to those of the European plant, never being regularly pinnated like the barren fronds of that one; they are also generally all fertile, however small. The texture of its fronds is also more stout and herbaceous than that of the British one, which is always described as being “membranaceous.”

3. The larger and more upright fronds of the New Zealand plant are not only very much smaller with fewer pinnæ, but their segments are all smaller and more acute and pointed, often sharply bifid; while those of the British plant are rounded and obtuse. Their stipes are also much longer in proportion to the size of their fronds. The stipe is also of a bright red colour, glossy and deeply channelled on the upper surface; while the stipe of the British plant is always described by all authors as being “black.”

4. The sori in our New Zealand plant are much more diffuse and confluent, generally covering the whole of the undersurface of the segment, never disposed in clear lines on the veins as in the British one. The veinules, too, are longer approaching nearer to the margin, and not extending beyond the sori as in the British plant. Often on the small reniform first fronds the sori are regularly disposed in almost circular spots, free, and distinct at the apices of the venules just within the margin of the frond. The sporules also are more angular, black, glossy, and pitted, characters which are wanting in those of the British plant. [375]

Dr. Hooker, in his “Handbook,” says of our New Zealand plant,—“Fronds 1–8 inches, veins dichotomous;” and in his “Flora of New Zealand” (where it is more largely described), it is also said to possess a flexuose midrib (“Costa flexuosa”); characters, however, which I do not find pertaining to our New Zealand plant. In my first published description of it (supra) I said,—“Frond 6–20 lines long; veins simple, forked;” and I had plenty of specimens.

Curiously enough the first or smaller fronds of Beddome’s South India plant (l.c., tab. 270) more resemble some of our New Zealand ones, in simple outline and in being fertile; although the long flexuose stipe is altogether dissimilar being very much longer and more wiry. Beddome also remarks (in opposition to Sir W.J. Hooker’s observation on the British plant), that,—“All my specimens have all their fronds fertile.” From its appearance however, as shown in the drawing (by no means a good one), I should infer its being distinct from the European G. leptophylla, though nearly allied.

There are also two or three other well-known closely allied yet distinct annual species described by Sir W.J. Hooker in his “Species Filicum,” as G. chœrophylla (from South America) and G. ascensionis (only found in the small islet of Ascension); and it seems to me that the difference between those two allowed distinct species (of which I also have both drawings and dissections in the Botanical works above mentioned, and the European G. leptophylla is not greater than that between it and our New Zealand plant.

G. leptophylla is also said to be found in Australia and Tasmania (vide Hook.f., Fl. Tasmania, and Bentham’s Fl. Australiensis), but I have not seen a specimen nor a drawing of either of them. They may more closely correspond with the European one than ours of New Zealand do; or they may be more closely allied with ours (which I am inclined to believe from the descriptions of them), or, as it were, be intermediate. I note that Bentham says of the Australian plant, “often under two inches high,” etc., and Dr. Hooker, of the Tasmanian one, says, “Fronds an inch to a span high; pinnules 2–4 inches long; stipes and rachis usually red-brown,” etc. All this agrees more with the New Zealand plant than with the British one, excepting the span high. It seems to be excessively rare in Tasmania, having been only found by one person, and that once only, and many years ago, and in a cave.

Evidently, however, by all those distinguished European botanists, who could only have seen the Australian, Tasmanian, and New Zealand plants in their dried state, and, I fear, without their characteristic first or early fronds, which soon wither (often before the large upright ones are fully developed) by them, one synthetic description, more particularly framed [376] from the handy living British plant, serves for all. I very much fear that this systematized amalgamation of ferns from all countries, however opposite in climate and geology (although a very good thing in itself, and when not pushed to extremes), will be hereafter found to have been injuriously carried too far with not a few of our New Zealand ferns. To this subject I hope to return anon.

1880 On some new and undescribed New Zealand Ferns.
Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 13: 376-384.

[Read before the Hawke’s Bay Philosophical Institute, 8th November, 1880.]

Hymenophyllum Pygmæum,620 n.s.

Rhizome capillary, creeping, spreading, much-branched and entangled, tomentose with fine red hairs; plant of densely matted growth; stipe 1–2 lines long, erect, solitary, 2–3 lines apart, sometimes two together springing from a node of the root-stock, filiform, terete, naked, sometimes bearing a few scattered minute weak reddish scales; frond 2 lines long including involucre, 2–4 lines broad, fan-shaped in outline, colour light green, glabrous, pinnate, generally one pair of pinnæ (very rarely two pairs, or three single ones, or a single pinna), which are petiolate, sub-opposite, and inclined upwards; pinnæ 1–2 lines long, membranaceous, broadly oblong, narrowest downwards, costa stout, not reaching to the margin, apex very obtuse and margin there entire, sides of pinnæ laciniated or slashed, teeth 3–5 on a side, long, acuminate, falcate, and only of the cellular substance of the pinnæ; involucre ob-conical, free on apex of short rhachis, 1½ lines long, 1 line broad at top, bearing a few scattered soft spinulose processes; valves scarcely rounded, divided less than half-way down, fimbriated with 14–17 translucent flexuose and subulate long green teeth or cilia wholly composed of cellular tissue (a truly beautiful object under a microscope); receptacle included, or slightly protruding in age.

Hab.—On cliffs, Preservation Inlet; on rocks, Resolution Island; and on rocks at the Bealey, J. D. Enys; hills round Lyttelton Harbour, Westland, coast south of Hokitika, etc.

This very minute fern (probably the smallest of the many small comforms of Hymenophyllum, and perhaps the smallest of all truly pinnate ferns) has been long known to me, but only through kind friends and correspondents; for, although I have received a copious supply of specimens both dried and living, I have never gathered it myself. It has always been [377] sent to me, from various sources, bearing the name of “H. minimum;” the correctness of which name I have ever doubted, but as I had never seen an authentic specimen or botanical drawing of that fern I did not greatly care to controvert, although I never could make my specimens to agree with the several published descriptions in my possession of H. minimum. Desirous however of deciding the point, I have recently obtained from Paris a copy of the Botany of the voyage of the “Astrolabe” (Admiral D’Urville) by Lesson and Richard, with its folio atlas of plates, in which that New Zealand fern is fully described by its discoverer, together with several drawings of the whole plant with dissections; and I very soon found that my conjecture was true, and that this little fern which I have here described has scarcely any affinity with A. Richard’s plant H. minimum, which is altogether distinct, belonging to a widely different natural section of the genus Hymenophyllum.

Indeed, I can scarcely understand how this fern came to me so commonly, and for so long a time, too, considered as A. Richard’s plant, except perhaps from its possessing a single terminal involucre, its small size, and its specific name (!) which, combined, seem to have led collectors astray. (I believe that this plant has been also published, name only, in some preceding volume of the “Transactions,” as the real H. minimum!) That plant I have never yet seen, and I almost venture to doubt of its having been again found in New Zealand since D’Urville’s visit in the “Astrolabe,” who discovered it.621 Dr. Hooker, however, did find it at the Auckland Islands, and has given a full and particular account of it in the “Botany of the Antarctic Voyage,” Vol. I., p. 103.

It has been the fate of the true H. minimum to be very unfortunate (like not a few others of our New Zealand ferns)! More than fifty years have passed since its discovery in New Zealand, it was soon however published at Paris to the scientific world, and well, too—both in descriptions [378] and drawings with dissections. Notwithstanding Sir W.J. Hooker, in his celebrated “Species Filicum,” (published some fifteen years after), included it under H. tunbridgense, as a mere synonym of that plant, not even allowing it to be a variety! And more lately, Baker (of Kew), in his “Synopsis Filicum,” has only tardily admitted it to a place, as a species, in the Appendix to that work. Bentham in the last volume of the “Flora Australiensis,” has included it therein—but only as having been found on one spot, on Lord Howe’s Island. Can it be, that this little fern (H. minimum), is both a littoral plant and a lover of rocky islets? All present book evidence tends that way. D’Urville may have originally found it on one of the many islets or cliffy headlands in Tasman’s Bay. And here it is to be noted, in passing, that while the precise spot is given of not a few of the New Zealand plants discovered by the French on that occasion, all mention of such is omitted under the full description of this one:—Crescit in Nova Zeelandia—is all that is said.

Another error occurs concerning it in the “Hand Book,” which it may be well to notice. (Amicus Plato, amicus Socrates, sed magis amica veritas.622) There it is said to have a “frond 1–2 inches high,” which is further described as if possessing (several) “involucres.” Baker, however, (l. c.) rightly describes its “frond as being ½–¾ inches long,” but “with several close-spreading distinctly-toothed pinnæ (?), the upper simple ligulate, the lower often forked;” and so Bentham (l. c.)—“frond ¼–½ inch long, deeply divided into 5–8 simple or bifid segments,” adding, however, “sori, usually one only to each frond,”—as if he had seen more.

Therefore, seeing there is such great disparity between those descriptions, as well as omission of some of its more peculiar specific characters (and as H. minimum, vera, is still unknown to me as a New Zealand fern, and wishing to direct the attention of collectors in the Southern Island to it), I will just give (in English) the main part of A. Richard’s original description of it (the original type specimens) from his botanical work (supra):—

“Plant very small; root creeping; frond scarcely ½ inch long, erect, solitary, stipitate, pinnatifid; colour lurid red; lowermost pair of segments greatly divided, obtuse, much serrated; segments folded lengthwise; involucre solitary, terminal, oblong, obtuse, semi-bivalve; margins of valves toothed (dentatus).”

And then the several drawings of his plant accompanying his description fully bear him out; for he has carefully given no less than five full-sized fronds, four of them singly arising from the same rhizome, and all remarkably alike, and quite symmetrical. And not only so, but from them we gain other important characters, each pinnatifid frond possessing five [379] pairs of involute segments, the lowermost pair being deeply and falcately cut nearly to the base, each of these forked segments being also deeply serrated on both sides, and having also a costa are very much recurved; all the segments have sharply-serrated margins and apices, each having 6–8 teeth on its side and three at the apex, with the midrib extending through to the margin and terminating in the central tooth, while the involucræ possesses very short, sharp, rigid teeth. The whole appearance, at first sight, strongly reminding one of a small spiny holly leaf (Ilex aquifolium).

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