To George Bentham1    24 September 1862

Melb bot Garden


Dear Mr Bentham.

Your last letter2 alleviated my fear about the right arrival of the Rutaceae.3 I am very glad they are safely with you. I have by the "Great Britain" which sailed some days ago forwarded Case No 8, which will bring now all you desire yet for the 1 vol.

You will find in it 13 fascicles of Rhamneae, 1 of Homalineae, 1 of Stackhousieae, 3 of Celastrineae, 2 of imperfect specimens of supposed thalamiflorous plants & 1 of supplements in all 21. There was a little space yet in the box, which I filled with copies of the recently published vol. of the transact of our R.S. — Perhaps you will be so kind to take the copies for the R.S., L.S & any other that are in your reach & hand the rest to Pamplin for distribution to the various adresses. 1 Copy is amongst them for the use of Kew, altho' in consequence of the very tardy issue I have placed no botanical memoranda in this volume.

You will find the series of Rhamnaceae magnificent! As I had to work out the Victorian species, previous to sending away the collections, it became necessary to test the validity of the genera as limited by you, according to your former letter notes. I was originally inclined to follow J. Hooker in admitting only Pomaderris & Cryptandra amongst the pomaderroid tribe, a view which I had arrived at even independent of Hooker, as you will see from some notes in my manuscripts sent to Kew nearly 10 years ago.4

I have for the purpose of giving a fair trial to your limitation analyzed all the species and varieties in the collection (indeed I spent the sparetime of a month on these Rhamnaceae, and have finally adopted following your lucid remarks Pomaderris, Trymalium, Spyridium & Cryptandra; but I cannot go further & Stenanthemum must go into Spyridium. Having the manuscript at hand I have thrown it into the Fragmenta,5 where you will see some remarks on the genera & species, which may ease your own final work on them.

A few of the new species I have described, when they appeared to be not likely existing in Kew, i.e. from localities, from whence I hitherto apparently monopolized collections. The 2 W. Austr true sp. of Pomaderris will interest you. Is Pom. biaurita (— figured by me) —6 the same as P. obcordata? it does not agree with Fenzl description.

In regard to Tripterococcus I had arrived exactly at the same results with you, but have suppressed the observation in your favor.

On some festival's occasion His Excellency Sir Henry Barkly did me the honor whilst referring to R.Br. as the father of Australian Botany, to designate me its Guardian. Allow me then to exercise this Guardianship on this occasion & to say that your Rhamneae must be overrated in species! Our collections have several species, which no doubt not exist at Kew, & I do not think that you will have many not seen by me. Yet I cannot admit more than 50 sp of Rhamneae including even the tropical ones; indeed the number will fall short rather of than exceed 50 whilst your calculations would bring the number up to nearly 80 if not more.

I wished it was possible for me to conduct you for only one week over some parts of our "bush" and you would fully concur in the limits I have generally assigned to our species.

Of Stackhousiaceae I do not think all Australia possesses more than 8! if not less!

I have enclosed a specimen of Rhus from Leichhardt's collection, overlooked when making up the supplements pr Great Britain. Will you kindly compare it. It seems to me to be quite [new], allied to some Abys[sinoide]7 species in my herbarium. I have seen no fruit. You may imagine, how eagerly I am looking forward to the "genera plantarum"8 The work will be a great boon for the botanical world for ever. If 10 copies are sent to me, I will endeavour to sell them. Baillière here is most trustworthy & painstaking in the sale of scientific books & perhaps you might place some into his hands.

Be so kind, to send me if possible always a duplicate of Bill of lading of the herbarium cases. I may be from home, when the ships arrive, but receiving the bill of loading by mail I can make always sure of due attention being given to these assignments.

I hope you will find more copious duplicates in the more recently sent collections, so that more than in the former instances may be kept for Kew.

I am engaged on Leguminosae & will do my best to keep you not waiting. The 20 No. of fragmenta9 is enclosed. You will find some very curious things mentioned in it. The Genus Macropteranthes in Combretaceae is now sufficiently established. Emmenosperma you probably had not before, nor Brachynema, all rare plants

Will you kindly arrange that I get always the proofsheets of the Australian Flora? I am told, that the Gentlemen at the Colonial Office will very readily send anything in the Despatch bag to his Excellency here for me; when it bears on scientific objects.

Steetz in his excellent "[der] Tremandreen [å] Lasiopetaleen"10 has stated some important facts in reference to the position of the ovules of Tetratheca & their number (varying 1-3). Will you kindly refer to it before your observations are printed I think the series of Tremandreae sent by me will prove that I am justified in my reductions, otherwise I will collect & send at a future period still more varieties — Polygala arvensis is extremely variable!

Salomonia was mentioned by R.Br. in his general remark in Flinders work. Steetz has in the Plant. Preissiana11 given some excellent & careful notes on the cohesion of the petals of Comesperma; but I did not find them born out in all species.

Does not Labillardière's whole plant belong to Stackhousia spatulata?12

You ask what adjuncts I desire to my name.13 I am not possessed of much vanity and the less you accord me the better. My Doctor titles & FRS. and out of respect to the Society over which you preside,14 you might accord me its fellow-initials also.

Your question in reference to my correspondents or botanical collectors15 I must answer confidentially as far as Maxwell & C. Stuart are concerned. Altho' both have acted always honorably & even generously to me, more so than I could have expected from the monetary support which they received, I owe to you the candid statement, that precedents of theirs are not favorable to the frequent & full quotations of their names. Dr Milligan can tell you something about Stuart & Mr Clifton of Fremantle about Maxw. Had I known their former history when I first entered into communication with them their names would less prominently have appeared in my writing. To get out of the dilemma I abbreviated their names. However we must be good & charitable to our fellow beings & rather elevate them th[a]n depress them. Both have acted energetically & disinterestedly for me on many occasions. But they are both aged & it is very doubtful whether they will ever see in the distant parts of Australia, in which they live, a copy of your work & should they feel overlooked, they can only blame themselfes. But I think a brief memorandum about them would not be entirely out of place & an abbreviation would be the best quotation, unless you prefer, what would perhaps be best to quote only herb. Muell. It was more than 10 years after my first communication with C. St., that I learnt the unfavorable episodes of his history.16

Aug. Oldfield, a thorough Gentleman, was engaged as collector for my department for a journey to the Murchison River, on which he was out for more than a year. A second time he collected supported by my department in the [most] south west parts of Australia. He deserves praise for his zeal & knowledge. Dr Herm. Beckler, a very superior man, collected also first for himself about the back country of moreton Bay & then entered also my department & distinguished himself by the botanical exploration of the jungle forests about the Hastings, Richmond, M'Leay & Clarence River, whence I directed him, and afterwards he collected as Botanist & Surgeon of Burkes unfortunate Expedition17 a good deal between the Darling & the Barrier Range.

Mr. J. Dallachy collected in an official capacity for the Melbourne bot. Garden, his most important journey being one to the Darling Desert. Mr Pemb. Walcott & Mr Maitland Brown collected in Francis Gregorys last expedition in NW Austr.

J. Macd[ua]ll Stuart, collected more or less in all his expeditions, for which service much acknowledgement must be accorded to him, whether we view his formerly scanty resources or reflect how little time a leader of an Expedition has for fostering the natural sciences on such occasions.

Mr W. Landsborough has brought me some plants from the back country of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Mr D. Henne went collecting on the expense of my department in the "Victoria" to the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Mr A. Thozet sent for several years past some interesting plants from Queensland.

Mr C Wilhelmi collected on his own expense at Port Lincoln in two distinct years, the locality as worth examining having been pointed out by me.

Mr C Moore sent me many plants from New South Wales. Mr W. Hill many from the vicinity of Moreton Bay.

Dr Leichhardt collected for 2 years previous to his celebrated Expedition in East Australia and especially in the backcountry of moreton Bay. His expedition plants were mostly destroyed, as you will know from his narrative, but still some occur in the general Collection, entrusted on loan to me by the trustees of the Sydney Museum on the proposition of Sir Will. Denison.

Dr. Herm. Behr, now in San Francisco, visited South Australia twice; the results of the first journey (previous to my arrival in Australia) were made known by Schlectendal in the Linnaea.18 The much more extensive collections of his second journey, when he principly collected between the Barossa Ranges & the Murray river were placed at my disposal. On Babbages Expedition you have the report.19 So on Aug Gregorys to Coopers Creek.20 A report on the plants of F. Gregorys last Expedition is nearly ready for press.21 — You will of course refer to Dampier, whose plants are stil exstant at Oxford & a composite of his, figured by Plukenett,22 I can not identify.

I have jotted these notes at a late hour hurriedly down; no doubt you will regard them only as memoranda for your review.

The other casual contributors connected with my own work will hardly need special mention, except Mr W. Woolls of Paramatta, a Gentleman who deserves the highest praise! for his zealously & [disinteredly] collecting any special plant desired, for much examination on his own part, for searching well the classical fields of Botany Bay & some other parts of New South Wales and who moreover did do every thing on his private resources. He is a Gentleman of great classical attainments, who has a scholastic establishment at Paramatta. His learning is only surpassed by his readiness to serve scientific purposes. Miss L Atkinson has collected much in the Blue Mountains & is entitled also to a special mark of honor. Mr E Bowman has sent few things from Queensland. Mr Eug. Fitzalan was engaged collecting for my department when he joined the Burdekin expedition, about which you have the report.23 Mr Will. Vernon has sent some good plants from the neighbourhood of Sydney, etc. Mr W. Allitt some plants from the vicinity of Portland. Rev. Jul Edm. Woods some from the Tattiara country. Rev Will Whan some plants from Skipton.24 Mr F. Waterhouse collected for the South Austr Government on particular desire of his Excellency Sir Rich M'Donnell a fine collection of plants [in] Kangaroo Island, I having directed attention to the desirability of examining the island. The plants were examined by me. Mr D. Bunce formed collections during Dr Leichhardts second journey. His Excellency C.J. Latrobe Esq. sent previous to my arrival collections to N[eu]chatel, mentioned occasionally by Meisner

My own labours need only a brief word. I commenced collecting in 1847 in South Australia and examined the country very extensively northward as far as Lake Torrens & southward as far as Encounter Bay[;] undertook also an overland journey as early as 1848 to Rivoli Bay. These labours on the South Australian were continued on my private resources til 1852 in South Australia, when I proceeded to Melbourne. In 1853 I entered under the auspices of h. Exc. C.J. Latrobe the Services of the Vict Government. In my annual reports the lines of my journeys are given. I may take the credit to myself of having fully revealed the flora of the Australian alps, of which only some traces became known to All Cunningham from the neighbourhood of Bathurst & less by Lhotzky.25 Was out with Gregory in 1855 & 1856. in N. Austral. & N.E. Austr. & have performed journeys to Twofold Bay, Cape Otway &c since in Victoria my own land surveys in their various lines in Australia exceeding 20,000 miles. The alpine journeys were particularly difficult as most of the alpine tracts had not been previously explored, many of the very summits having [been] first ascended myself.

I am extremely obliged to you for your kindness of having sent me your effigies, which I shall always retain amongst the most precious gifts which I possess.26

The only ilicineous plant I possess from Australia is mislaid; so I could not send it with the last consignment. It is my Byronia Arnhemensis, of which plenty of specimens must be at Kew. It requires comparison with Asa Grays' South Sea Island species. You were quite correct in your surmise, that my Unona is your Polyalthia nitidissima. I have compared Labillardières figure.27 Is Celastrus Australis distinct from C. paniculata?28 The Anonanacous plant mentioned as a Popowia by Dr Hooker in the flora Indica is unknown to me. Of the genus Pleiodontium29 amongst Homalineae you will find a manuscript description in Kew, drawn up from living specimens. Mr A Black of Kew refered it properly to Homalineae. It is my intention to send a collector ere long to the N.E. coast. At present the natives are still very dangerous, but gradually we will get access to the country & its plants, altho' only under heavy expenses.

Is perhaps Stackhousia viminea described by Smith in Rees cycl.?30

Mr Ch Moore of the Sydney bot Garden has desired me to propose him as a F.L.S., a request which I carry out with the utmost of pleasure, and I feel sure you as the President of this important Society will be pleased of Mr Moores fellowship, as he has done much in disclosing the vegetation of E. Australia. Will you kindly arrange for his election through the neccessary additional sponsors?31 Mr Moores wood in the Exhibition N. 39 is the new genus of Rhamnaceae Emmenosperma alphitonoides; N. 147 of Moore's timber-collection is my new Lactaria Moorei, allied to L. calocarpa Hasskarl, but quite distinct.

I enclose a specimen of Viscum incanum var aureum, which was twice immersed in oil of turpentine. I bilieve it is now tolerably safe against attacks of insects. I have dipped all my salices and shall watch with interest the effect of the oil. Hitherto I was unable to keep insects entirely out of them. It was only a few weeks ago, when I received the 6 part of the proceedings of the L. S., in which your valuable paper on Malvaceae & allied orders occurs.32 I had no notice of it before. If your views were previously promulgated as record of the meeting, in which the paper was read (perhaps in the Gardeners Chronicle, which I keep) I must have overlooked the notice. Thus I reduced Sturtia independently of yourself to Gossypium.33 I give to most of your ingenious observations my concurrence, but must be permitted to deviate from some of your views. Thus for instance it seems to me hazardous to unite Brachychiton with Sterculia, because, as my own researches go, there is no instance on record where in one genus a straight embryo occurs with superior radicle in some & with inferior radicle in other species! But perhaps your much more extensive experience may have pointed out to you analogous cases in other genera. Embryos with [much] curved cotyledons & radicle[s], such as those of Salsoleae, can scarcely be regarded as supporting your view. There is moreover[,] a remarcable peculiarity in the breaking off of the exterior integument of the seeds of Brachychiton, giving to the follicle after the secession of the seeds a honeycombed appearance [at] the bottom. I regard Brachychiton a good Genus! I found out Prof Lindleys error in reference to the position of the radicle in Delabechea, as mentioned by RBr.

I do not see, that Sida dictyocarpa can be separated from Sida. S. subspicata is the same species. I have sent you Urena from the Burdekin. Schlechtendal has himself corrected his error in reference to Malva Behriana[.] Sida Tasmanica34 is most certainly only a variety of Sida pulchella. You will observe, that I found out my error in reference to the genera Seringea & Keraudrenia, having misunderstood their limits in consequence of the remarks by Steetz in Lehm. pl. Preiss.35 In the Hermannieae the general character must admit of monoecious flowers also, otherwise Dicarpidium would be excluded. Tarrietia has more frequently ternate than quinate leaflets, the number of leaflets being still much more variable in Brachychiton Delabechei.

With the profound respect, which I entertain for your long experience & matured judgement, I cannot help to differ from you in the sentiments, which you so decidely express in reference to the non-fixity of species. I think I had in Australia, where physical conditions are more widely different within limited space than perhaps in most parts of the globe, an opportunity to study the laws of variation of species more carefully in the field & under the most varied circumstances, than any other or at least than most Botanists. And the result of the investigations has invariably been, wherever I had a fair opportunity of completing observation, that species are permanent & unalterable, but that they are subject to vastly more variations than we were accustomed to suppose! They [n]ever pass into each other, & their weak hybrid offsprings nature has destined for speedy destruction in most cases. Altho' I so fully respect & appreciate the results of your long & ardent labor, I think you will forgive me, if I boldly uphold the great principle, on which the formation of species rests. It is far from me to force my opinion on any one, especially on one, who stands in botanical science so infinitely higher than myself[,] but I consider it a duty, which I owe to science, that I should not withhold my views on this all important question, which agitates now the naturalists of the day. Lindley is right! Nature created species, but not genera nor orders; these will ever be subject to the alteration consonant with individual views of Botanists; limits of species should finally be beyond the range of dispute!

Ever yours most regardfully

Ferd Mueller


Humboldt expressed his view well in what I quoted for the Victorian plants from the Cosmos.36


Brachychiton Delabechei


Byronia Arnhemensis


Celastrus Australis

Celastrus paniculata






Emmenosperma alphitonoides





Lactaria calocarpa

Lactaria Moorei



Malva Behriana



Polyalthia nitidissima

Polygala arvensis

Pomaderris biaurita

Pomaderris obcordata









Sida dictyocarpa

Sida pulchella

Sida subspicata

Sida Tasmanica


Stackhousia spatulata

Stackhousia viminea




MS black-edged; M's sister, Bertha Doughty, died on 7 September 1861. The pages of the MS are numbered, apparently by M, but the numbers are not reproduced here.
Presumably G. Bentham to M, 14 July 1862 or 24 July 1862.
For 'fears' see M to J. Hooker, 25 August 1862 (in this edition as 62-08-25a), M to W. Hooker, 26 August 1862 and M to G. Bentham, 26 August 1862 (in this edition as 62-08-26a).
Manuscripts not found.
B62.09.01, pp. 62-86.
In B62.09.01, p. 73, M refers to: 'Plants Indigenous to Victoria, vol. ii. tab. xxii'. The plate is included in B65.13.04, which was issued independently of the text of B63.13.06. The Library of RBG Kew contains proofs of B63.13.06, the first forty pages of the text of the letterpress of the intended vol. 2, which was never completed. The first two gatherings are extensively annotated in pencil in an unknown hand.
Words partly obscured by binding strip. This is presumably the specimen used by Bentham to name R. viticifolia, but now considered to be R. tomentosa from southern Africa. See Jessup (1985), p. 185.
Bentham & Hooker (1862-83).
Steetz (1853).
Lehmann (1844-7), pp. 291-315.
S. spathulata?
See G. Bentham to M, 14 July 1862.
Linnean Society. The title page of vol. 1 of Flora Australiensis has ' ... Assisted by | FERDINAND MUELLER, M.D, F.R.S & L.S ...'.
G. Bentham to M, 14 July 1862.
Although letters from George Clifton and Milligan to W. Hooker exist in the archives at RBG Kew, none mention Maxwell or Stuart. M may have believed that they had been convicts but no unambiguous evidence that they had been transported has been found. Despite M's stated expectation that they would not see a copy, each was on his distribution list for the first volume (M to J. McCulloch, 8 December1863). Bentham did not follow M's advice but spelled out the names of Stuart and Maxwell in full (e.g. Bentham [1863-78], vol. 1, p. 14*). When Maxwell died, M wrote a short obituary; see M to the Editor, Gardeners' Chronicle, February 1880 (in this edition as 80-02-00c).
Burke & Wills Exploring Expedition, 1860-1.
Schlechtendal (1847-8).
Brachycome aff. cheilocarpa(Plukenet (1705), plate 450, fig. 10). See George (1999).
Bentham (1863-78), vol. 1, p. 14*, has 'Shipton'.
J. Lhotsky.
Photographs not found.
Labillardière (1824-5), t. 56. See B62.04.01, p. 2.
C. paniculatus?
Pleiodontium was never published. See also notes to M to G. Bentham, 26 November 1862.
Smith (1819).
Charles Moore was proposed FLS on 4 December 1862 (Linnean Society of London, Certificates of Fellows, Foreign Members and Associates, 1857–64; in this edition as 62-12-04).
Bentham (1862a).
Gossypium sturtiiin B62.04.01, p. 6.
S. tasmannica?
Steetz (1848).
On title page of B62.02.01: 'Überall durchdringt uns das Gefühl des Bestehens der Natur nach innern ewigen Gesetzen. Humboldt's Cosmos.' ['Everywhere presses upon us the sense of the existence of Nature according to inner eternal laws.']

Please cite as “FVM-62-09-24,” 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 24 May 2024,