To Thomas Mitchell1    November 1851

Adelaide, November2 1851


I take the liberty of sending by Mr Read, a gentleman proceeding to Sidney, a copy of Nr. of the "South Australian"3 containing a proposal for sending an exploring party along the Albert river to ascertain the fate of Dr. Leichhardt and by the same time I beg to add a few passages of a letter adressed to the secretary of the Australian society4 forming a few additional remarks to the former and I trust that they will experience the favourable consideration and perhaps the kind support of such a distinguished and celebrated traveller as Sir Th. Mitchell.

Since these observations were written, I am returned from a botanical journey into the rocky ranges surrounded by Lake Torrens5 and have seen Mr Oakden retreated, whose discovery of two fresh water lakes at the end of the last dry season in a N. Western direction from M. Arden caused so much surprise; for these lagunes have been probably at that time filled by a thunderstorm and dried successively up during the winter season, when no rain appeares to fall in that parched country. Thus the prospect is vanished, that the squatters might extend beyond the head of Spencers gulph and therefore the want of pastural ground becomes more and more urgent. If now an expedition traverses to the sources of the Albert-river, it is not at all unlikely, that your furthest point in Capricornia thence easily will be reached, and consequently the squatters be enabled, to occupy at once the rich alluvial land near the gulph of Carpentaria, having thence a spendid6 position to supply India with horses and cattle, where as a further extension towards the interior from the places now inhabited, is almost useless on account of the long distance from any harbour or market.

Should this plan meet with the approbation of the government and a expedition formed, strong enough to resist the natives and enabled to fall back on the vessel near the mouth of the Albert-river, if required, I shall be most happy to offer my services as a botanist to the expedition. Perhaps it is of some interest to you, Sir Thomas, if I introduce here a parcus of my diagnoses descriptionesque plantarum, quas in coloni[...]7 australi Novo-Hollandica collegit & investigavit ..., concerning the Erianthus discovered by you in the subtropical Australia, and which being new I have honored with the name:

Erianthus Mitchelli, Ferd. Mll. l.c. & in the South Australian 1851, n 1271.8

Ad fluminis Murray ripas arenosas, e.g. prope Morunde.9 Behr. Mueller.10

Planta nobilissime Mitchell aeque ac mea non nisi geniculis nudis (sed in parte inferiore caulis paulisper barbatis) ab Eriantho fulvo (Saccharo fulvo R.Br.) discriminanda atque spicis binis ternisve nunquam digitatis.

Synon. Erianthus sp. E. fulva similis, Mitch. trop. Austr. p. 62.11

[Anthes]: aestate, auctumna.

I shall be most delighted, Sir Thomas, to receive any communication from you on the object [desired], and must conclusively express my greatest veneration for the discoverer of Australia felix and the acute observer of the indigenous Fauna and Flora.

I am your most obedient humble servant

Ferd. Mueller.


Extract of a letter to the secretary of the Australian society

For me only remains to add two points of some importance to those opinions already stated in the South Australian 1) to refer to the advantage of bringing a party in search of Leichhardt in full vigour on a distant point of his trace, which best might be done from the basis of the gulph of Carpentaria, otherwise the party will be likely already exhausted ere reaching the sources of the Albert-river by a direction from S. East and therefore perhaps obliged to abandon the progress at the very time when nearly approaching its destination. Secondly it appears advantageous to me, to proceed from the gulph of Carpentaria, because if not being successful in reaching their aim, the exploring party will be able to fall back on the vessil waiting at the gulph, and there fore the security of the travellers will be but little endangered.

Besides I offer thought, how easy it might be, that even when the greater number of Dr L's party were perished, one or the other individual might yet live with a friendly tribe of natives, being not only prevented to advance alone to the neighbourhood of Port Essington or an other place sometimes visited by Malays, to seek release by them, but also unable to retreat on account of hostile tribes in the rear or after a loss of their vehikels by the sterility of the country. Certainly — for instance — the amiable natives of Coopers creek would have not objected to Capt. Sturts staying amongst them as long as he pleased. Of course I have not reason to believe, that this really is the case, still such a conjecture may show, that many similar circumstances might happen worth investigation. — —


Erianthus Mitchelli

Erianthus fulva

MS address: 'Lieutnant-Colonel | Sir Thomas L. Mitchell, Knight, D.C.L., Surveyor-General | &c. &c. &c. | Sidney.'
November overAugust.
A short-lived predecessor of the Royal Society of NSW.
M's trip to the Flinders Ranges and Lake Torrens, November 1851. See Grandison (1990).
illegibleMS damaged.
This issue has not been found.
Formerly a settlement near Blanchetown, SA.
MEL 1547359 Eulalia aurea bears an earlier label in Carl Wilhelmi's handwriting with the name 'Erianthus Mitchelli' collected by M 'On the banks of the Murray'.
Mitchell (1848) p. 62: 'Among the grasses growing among the reeds, we perceived the Andropogon sericeus and an Erianthus, which appeared to differ from E. fulvus in having no hair upon the knees.'

Please cite as “FVM-51-11-00,” in Correspondence of Ferdinand von Mueller, edited by R.W. Home, Thomas A. Darragh, A.M. Lucas, Sara Maroske, D.M. Sinkora, J.H. Voigt and Monika Wells accessed on 6 June 2023,