To William Hooker1    3 February 1853

Camp on the Darebin creek, Victoria

3 Febr 1853


As a highly esteemed promoter of botanical science throughout the world you will, I trust, Sir William, not without some interest receive the intelligence, that his Excell. our scientific Governor LaTrobe has has been pleased, to entrust to me the newly created office of a Government botanist for this province,2 an appointment, that I joyfully accepted, as it now enables me at lenght to devote my time henceforth exclusively to the study of the indigenous plants, whereas relei[in]g on my practical duties and my own resources, I could formerly extend my botanical researches never so far as I always desired.

This letter is written on my first camp in a journey to the Australian alps, which to visit I prefered amongst the remoter localities for my first longer journees, with a view of ascertaining as far as the lateness of the season and my somewhat limited means permit, the connexion likely existing between the vegetation of the only alps of this continent known (Mount William of the Grampians being merely alpestrious) with those of V.D.L., N.Z., the Himalaya, Europe &c &c, a object that will offer, I hope, remarkable additions to Phytogeography. Of my botanical labours in South Australia I suppose little came to your notice, unless two general papers3 communicated for publication to Mr Kippist Libr. L.S.4 Part of my manuscripts appear to be lost on their way home and notes on about 1500 South Austr. plants (regarding the generally poor vegetation — as already mentioned — by R.Br5 — equal to twice that number of plants from West Austr) and on about 1000 sp from other Austr. colonies remain, as far as I know, up to this hour in obscurity, notwithstanding that I commenced writing them in 1847 and part of them has been in possession of Dr W. Sonder since almost 3 years, this gentleman being, I believe, to much involved in other duties as to pay that prompt attention to the accomplishments of my labours, that I wished bestowed on them.6 His brilliant Australian collections, which made me select him for this purpose, are perhaps not surpassed by any other private herbarium than, Sir William, your own (and perhaps R Br's) and as such accumulation of materials for comparison laid open without partiality to the scientific-world facilitates extremely the revision of my botanical papers, I take the liberty to enquire, whether Dr Jos. Hooker or Mr G. Bentham, or an other botanist diligent productive, and accomplished like those great learned men, would feel inclined to undertake, 'without delay' hereafter the revision and publication of my manuscripts and the distribution of the corresponding specimens under your own superintendance — such revisions of course are necessary — because even by employing all means in obtaining constantly the new books that treat on the vegetation of this countries, so many of the diagnoses of the older works are so exceedingly brief and therefore unsufficient, that since the number of species known so wonderfully increased, instances occurred to me, that 3 exactly agree with the definitions of the older authors, and I am happy to see, that in your sons labours, and in the latter volumes of DC7 a course more favourable and satisfactorely is pursued.

Of the plants of the province Victoria I collected since my arrival in August last about 700 sp, more than 100 of them new (peculiar features in the scenery are 4 Panax sp. P. dendroides, P. Dallachii, P. paucilobus,8 P. angustifolius all very [distinct]! Pseudomorus (n.g.) Australasica (found it appears from your journal also by All Cunn9 descending the dividing ranges of N.S.W.) and apparently peculiar to this colony; the ful descriptions10 of them are communicated or at least forwarded in two pts to Dr Sonder; but trough this journey I hope our flora will be greatly enriched and by one or two years exertions more and the communications of a few friend in various localities I believe to become to a great extend acquainted with our floral productions at least as far as to commence th[e]n, if life and health may be granted to me, an universal Australian Flora. No doubt, Sir William, you will consider my s[c]heme bold and premature, and perhaps myself ambitious, still I can assure you, that neither egoism nor overestimation of my own powers, but only my ardent desire to promote our favourite science, is the impulse to a task, so labourious, so triing11 and so perilous and had not long labours convinced me of the necessity to collect all the scattered papers, that have engaged so many able men, to a universal and enlarged phytographic work on a part of the globe, now of such immense importance and of which now little less than 1000 sp. are known, and had I not been persuaded, that not only such work would excite so many intelligent men here of the rising generation to the further bot. investigation of their adopted country, but also that my new situation offers an opportunity to keep up a mutual literarey intercourse with all Australian collectors and that doubtless through an exchange of seeds I shall have many a doubtful species under my observation.

If you, Sir William, think this proposal worth your kind consideration, I would beg particularly for seeds of any Australian plant cultivated in the Royal gardens of Kew, to be entrusted to the care of the well known Mr Dallachi, under whose able management the young bot. Garden of this colony is growing rapidly in importance. I pledge my word to give ample aequivalents and am convinced I can offer them!

Should Dr J. D. Hooker have a similar intention with regard to a publication or a universal botany of Australia, perhaps he will do me the great honor of cooperating so far with me, as to select those natural orders which he will illustrate with his own ingenious elaborations and honor me with a communication on the subject.

Both the Eurybiopsis species of V.D.L. I have united with the very various forms of this plant from South Australia under the name of Eurybiopsis Hookeri, to which according to Dr Sonder belongs Eurybia cuneifolia Walpers.12

Your venerable friend, Mr W. Swainson, devotes himself since a year attentively and entirely to the examination of the intricate genus Eucalyptus, and in his advanced age, I think, the youthful ardour can not be enough acknowledged, with which he perseveres in this difficult undertaking.13

I shall be proud, Sir William, to receive from you soon a favourable answer and have the honor to be your greatest admirer and obedient Servant

Dr Ferdinand Mueller,


Adr: bot. Garden, Melbourne


Eurybia cuneifolia

Eurybiopsis Hookeri

Panax angustifolius

Panax Dallachii

Panax dendroides

Panax paucilobus

Pseudomorus Australasica

MS is written in pencil. MS address: 'To Sir Will. Jacks. Hooker, Knight Dr. jur..., V. Pres. L.S &c, Direct. of the bot. Gardens Kew near London.'
See W. Lonsdale to M, 26 January 1853.
B53.03.01, B53.04.02.
Linnean Society, London.
Robert Brown. Brown (1814) p. 2 commented that the southern coast of Australia, along the Great Australian Bight, produced very few species probably because of 'the less favourable season' in which he examined it and the coast's 'greater sterility'.
Direct evidence concerning M's transmission of plants to Sonder has not been found. The introduction to B53.04.01 is consistent with what M states here: 'Quae stirpes novae ad plantarum pertinent collectionem, dien venalum, in Nova Hollandia australiore a Dre. Ferd. Müller congestam at ad Drem. Sonder Hamburgensem missam, cujus omnium hujus collectionis specierum enumeratio propediem sequetur.' [New plants pertinent to this collection, afterwards sold, were collected in southern New Holland by Dr Ferd. Müller and sent to Dr Sonder of Hamburg, all species of the collection being enumerated shortly thereafter.]
A. P. de Candolle (1823-73).
P. paucilobus not in APNI.
Allan Cunningham.
M did not erect Pseudomorus as a new genus; Pseudomorus erected in Bureau (1869) may not refer to the species M discusses in this letter.
M united J. Hooker's Eurybiopsis gracilis and E. scabrida in B53.14.02, p. 453.
See Maroske & Cohn (1992).

Please cite as “FVM-53-02-03,” 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 30 November 2023,