From George Bentham   8 October 1862

1862 October

begun 8th

My dear Sir,

On my return to town and to work at Kew at the beginning of this month I found your letter of 24th July1 — I am very glad to hear you are pursuing the publication of your Plants of Victoria as I am anxious you should always precede me in order that full justice should be done to your labours — and yet I have at my age no time to put off if I have any hope of bringing my work to a conclusion — I hope you will continue to work up the Leguminosae before the large families of Myrtaceae and Euphorbiaceae which will both take up a long time — Besides it is better not to do much in Euphorbiaceae till De Candolle's volume of that family — now I believe getting on rapidly — is ready.2

You speak of steeping your specimens in oil of turpentine3 — our experience shows that it kills the larvae for the moment but when dry after a little time they eat through it without caring a rush for it. We find nothing so good as corrosive sublimate from the use of which we find no inconvenience whatever as to health any more than they do at Paris.

You caution me continually against publishing as synonyms catalogue names unaccompanied by diagnoses, and I shall avoid it except where they have got within reach of Germans who seeing specimens with the names in Sonder's herbarium or referred to in the Linnaea are sure to take them up as "species neglectae" if not disposed of in some way.

In going over the ground of our Genera4 you will here and there find errors of the press or mistakes uncorrected in the Addenda. This is particularly the case in some orders which like Malvaceae were early done in a different form and copied over and over again. For instance Hookers species of Plagianthus sidoides is referred wrong — Here and there also working up all the species of a genus requires modifications of the generic characters verified only in a few species

You speak of Sapindaceae. They were done by Dr Hooker and notwithstanding that our materials are so abundant there are so many of which we had only flowers or only fruit that he was obliged to leave them in a very unsatisfactory state and adopt more genera than he would have done if he could satisfy himself of all their characters.

The dimorphous anthers of Crotalaria and some other Genisteae have long been observed. You will find them alluded to in my paper on Leguminosae published at Vienna 25 years ago and probably in older works on the order for I believe it was no new observation of mine.5

I have had official notice from the Australian Agent that your £100 will be paid to me after the 25th of this month.

Since my return I have been at Malvaceae.6 On examining in detail all the species of Plagianthus I am still more convinced of the expediency of keeping it up as a genus within the limits given in the Journ. Linn. Soc.7 (with the addition of a small species of Drummond's of which I have collected several specimens in different states from among Sidas). All the species are dioecious as well as differing from Sida in the styles — Abutilon must also be kept up as well as Malvastrum or the whole system of A. Gray the best hitherto proposed in Malvaceae must be laid aside — In Malvaceae as in Caryophylleae the genera are not so natural as could be wished, but better as arranged by A. Gray than under any other system.

I could not at first relish the union of all the forms you had collected under Sida corrugata, but on further consideration I have come into your views except perhaps as to S. intricata — the others I have given as varieties — and prominent varieties have a claim to be separately mentioned.

S. Hookeriana Miq. including S. leiophloia Miq. and probably S. rupestris is quite distinct from the African S. triloba not only in duration and foliage but in the venation of the calyx and structure of the fruit.

I have had a good deal of trouble with the tropical Abutilons — besides having to work up the corresponding Indian species which are in some confusion the Australian specimens are often very imperfect and your names in some cases misapplied in the herbarium particularly A. leucopetalum and tubiflorus. Your Abutilaea (judging from a poor specimen of Sonders) appears to be a clandestine form of an unpublished species in Mitchell's and other collections which had been erroneously named leucopetalum whilst the true leucopetalum (agreeing precisely with your characters) has some how got your label of tubiflorum which is quite a distinct species as you point out. Of Indian ones we have from Australia A. Indicum A. graveolens A. Avicennae A. muticum (A. Asiaticum of some authors) and A. crispum.

Your Pavonia Greevesia8 is exactly the Montivedean P. hastata and I find in Montivedean specimens similar dimorphous flowers although you appear to be the first to observe them. But dimorphous flowers (perfect and apetalous or cryptopetalous) are now found in so large a number of polypetalous genera that they never come unexpected.

In Hibiscus there is little to add to the number you have described. Your H. Elliotti9 must I fear give place to the name H. Drummondi10 published by Turczaninow rather sooner H. magnificus appears to me identical with H. divaricatus Grah. I quite agree with you that the common W. Australian one which you have referred to H. Pinonianus and H. multifidus is all one species but the true H. Pinonianus Gaud. is a very different one which I have only seen in Drummond's last collection from the Moore & Murchison rivers11 and which appears almost to connect Sect. Bombicella with Fugosia and H. multifidus Paxt is the Fugosia hakeaefolia Hook. — The common Swan River one must take the name of H. Huegelii Endl. (notwithstanding that Huegel says it has yellow flowers). It included H. Wrayae Lindl. as well as H. Huegelii (with purple flowers) H. Pinonianus H. Meisneri and H. grossulariaefolius of the Pl. Preiss.12 H. coronopifolius Miq. Pl. Preiss is H. lilacinus Lindl. a var. I think of Fugosia hakeaefolia. I am disposed to refer to Fugosia not only your Gossypium australe which I alluded to as the Australian sp. in Gen. Pl. but also F. hakeaefolia H. cuneiformis DC. and a new N. W. species in Cunningham's collection — I have some doubts about the stigmas of H. pinonianus Gaud. One gets too few flowers of these Hibiscus's to soak them and one is sometimes deceived about the stigmas when they only spread after the flower is fully open. Besides, no large genre are so definite as to leave no intermediate species. I do not think that Fugosia can be joined to Hibiscus without uniting all the Hibisceae into one genus which no one would agree to. Sir W. Hooker was I think quite mistaken in considering H. brachysiphonius as allied to Fugosia digitata it is a true Bombicella13 — the only plant I know with similar stamens is a tropical African one which I believe to be H. ferrugineus Cav.

I was glad to see the specimens of your Unona Leichhardtii. We had already very good flowering specimens from Bidwill and others from A. Cunningham &c — the flowers show it to be a Melodorum — a genus which has pretty nearly the flowers of Unona with the fruit of Unona or Xylopia and I had described it under the name of M. nitidum for which I have substituted your name and entered it as Melodorum Leichhardtii. I hope you will have sent your Uvarias one I presume is one I had described from Macgillivray's specimen.

I have just ascertained that Hibiscus or Abelmoschus alborubens F. Muell. is identical with authentic specimens of Roxburgh's H. crispus which is no other than the erect state of what W. & Arn14 refer I believe correctly to H. ficulneus Linn.

I am in doubts about your Lagunaria. The leaves are much narrower and more glabrous than in the Norfolk Island plant and the bracts are persistent — I relied much upon this thinking that L. Patersoni had (as described) none, but I find that the very young buds have them similar to those of your plant.

Brown's Malvaceae which I have now gone through have confirmed in good specimens some of A. Cunningham's and added three or four more.

The Kent arrived this week your boxes are not yet cleared but we expect them at Kew probably on Monday. In the mean time this must be posted today Oct. 18th

ever yours sincerely

George Bentham


Dr F. Mueller


I enclose my photograph which you asked for.15


Abelmoschus alborubens



Abutilon Asiaticum

Abutilon Avicennae

Abutilon crispum

Abutilon graveolens

Abutilon Indicum

Abutilon leucopetalum

Abutilon muticum

Abutilon tubiflorus





Fugosia digitata

Fugosia hakeaefolia


Gossypium australe


Hibiscus coronopifolius

Hibiscus cuneiformis

Hibiscus divaricatus

Hibiscus Drummondi

Hibiscus Elliotti

Hibiscus ficulneus

Hibiscus grossulariaefolius

Hibiscus Huegelii

Hibiscus ferrugineus

Hibiscus lilacinus

Hibiscus magnificus

Hibiscus Meisneri

Hibiscus multifidus

Hibiscus Pinonianus

Hibiscus section Bombicella

Hibiscus Wrayae

Lagunaria Patersoni




Melodorum Leichhardtii

Melodorum nitidum


Pavonia hastata

Plagianthus sidoides


Sida corrugata

Sida Hookeriana

Sida intricata

Sida leiophloia

Sida rupestris

Sida triloba

Unona Leichhardtii



In this volume as 62-07-24a.
See J. Müller (1864), (1865), (1866).
M to G. Bentham, 24 July 1862 (in this edition as 62-07-24a).
Bentham & Hooker (1862-83), vol. 1.
Bentham (1837), p. 78, where Bentham cites Plate 2808 of Hooker (1827-64), vol. 55.
Bentham (1863-78), vol. 1, pp. 184-224. Many of the points made here are repeated in more formal language in Bentham's comments on the status of the species and M's views on their limits.
Bentham (1862).
Bentham treated M’s genus Greevesia as a synonym of Pavonia.
H. Elliottii?
H. Drummondii?
Lehmann (1844-7).
Wight & Arnott (1834).
M to G. Bentham, 24 June 1862 (in this edition as 62-06-24b). Photograph not found.

Please cite as “FVM-62-10-08,” 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 17 June 2024,