To George Bentham   24 December 1862

Melbourne botan. Garden


My dear Mr Bentham.

I was as usual delighted to receive your kind letters by last mail, replete with botanical interest. For all the information, conveyed by them, I owe you my very best thanks. I was very glad to hear also that the two Boxes pr "Kent" safely reached Kew. There has been much destruction between the vessels in the British Channel according to the last telegraphic despatches & I hope that all my other consignments have also escaped peril.

According to your desire I will give preference to Leguminosae in my next elaborations, so that you may on no account be kept waiting in your own work. Had my health not been fluctuating since some time past I would have gone on more speedily, but I intend to take a trip to the Australian Alps & then resume printing the Victoria Flora. I think I must put Leguminosae & Myrtaceae into a separate volume; if properly worked out they will afford quite enough material for the purpose.

I was, as you justly observe, wrong in uniting Seringia & Keraudrenia & had mended the error before. My poor late friend Dr Steetz had not given the cardinal characters of the genera & thus I was led astray.

What I took in our garden as Rulingia parvifolia2 may well have come from the E. coast. It was raised from seeds & I cannot now after many years remember the source fromwhence3 they were received. I am thankful, you pointed out the error. It is a very handsome plant, covering in a depressed intricate manner a large patch of ground & would grow to a very widley spreading specimen if we kept it not by trimming & pruning within bounds.

I have sent specimens of Calophyllum Inophyllum to Kew in 1857 from N.E. Australia, where it grows on several of the Islands.4 Cunningham found it also as you will observe from the Appendix to King’s voyage.5

Emmenosperma is a well marked genus, as you will observe when my Rhamnaceae arrive.

You may safely depend on the identity of the Lagunarias of Port Denison & Norfolk Island. I drew up a generic note & sent it to Dr Hooker some months ago.6 I had excellent opportunity for doing so as we cultivate the Norfolk Island plant & it is producing abund[ences] of fruit with us. The size of the involucre is like in many Hibisci extremely variable. That several Norfolk Island plants are already before found on the E. coast of the Australian continent also, you will be aware of, e.g. Baloghia lucida.

I must most ardently once more desire you to publish no herbarium names even if quoted in catalogues or books, unless accompanied by a published diagnosis somewhere. If it was done, I think it would be an injustice to myself, because I distinctly told Dr Sonder that my names should be regarded as ephemerous ones, whenever the supposed new species did not stand the test, and I felt very justly hurt when Sonder acted absolute contrary to my repeatedly expressed unequivocal wishes.7

If in the preface to your work a memorandum appears to the effect, that names of catalogues &c are omitted (so as not to load botany with additional synonymy, but rather to liberate it from such) I think no one could tax you justly with having anything overlooked. It is scarcely necessary to instance, under how great a disadvantage I have laboured here in consequence of having in the majority of cases to recognize my plants by perfectly inadequate diagnoses & descriptions. If in consequence of the wrong interpretation of badly & unduely briefly constructed definitions a species is not recognized and a new one spuriously made, the blame attaches clearly as much if not more, to the author, who so imperfectly made his plant known, than to the later botanist, who created untenable species. For the question arises, what good are diagnoses at all, if it still necessary to have besides references to a figure or an authentic specimen?

Even the golden prodromus of RobBrown is leaving us in most cases as helpless as could be imagined, when it comes to the point of distinguishing species. Pray see the diagnoses of Leucopogon, of Eriocaulon, of Trichinium &c &c — under the circumstances in which I have been placed here, I think I should enjoy your especial forbearance & you could cause me no greater grief than publishing any names I may have temporarily adopted for a species without diagnosis.

I have examined the 2 Gossypia with considerable care & do not think they could be placed in two different genera, altho' G. Australe is the end form of the genus & links it to Hibiscus. You will permit me to say, that I cannot see sufficient reason to separate Fugosia, otherwise than as a subgenus from Hibiscus. I referred to the [single] styled W. Australian Hibiscus hakeifolius as belonging to Fugosia in one of my former publications.

If Abelmoschus albo-ruber is referable to Hibiscus ficulneus, then it forms a striking variety, for altho' I noticed the plant on many places I found the petals always white with a dark-red base. But as the color of petals is so variable in some Malvaceae, it may well belong to H. ficulneus. Cavanilles figure 71,1 illustrates the plant pretty fairly,8 altho' not sufficiently to prove identity; but the fig 52, 2 quoted by W. & A. (p 53.) is assuredly wrongly referred to the plant.9 Cavanilles says of his Lagunaea10 aculeata, that it has yellow flowers. — Lamark [me]rely copied from Cavanilles.

Very many thanks for your card which I will keep in honor. If I not send a lithograph of my effigies for your kind acceptance soon, I will send you at least my card.

Since writing the previous lines I have put in order for you nearly all the Extra Victorian Genera of Leguminosae and intend to send them by the Result, which magnificent Clipper is to leave Port Phillip on 5. January. You will find large additions to the habitats, and this is especially the case in Acaciae. As Leguminosae are comparatively speaking amongst the easily examined plants, I shall probably not be long in sending you the rest of the Order, as a good deal is already done in preliminaries for their examination, and I can add at once all the orders of Calyciflorae, which comprise no Victorian genera. I hope that I shall not be obliged to pause long in my labours, as my trip to the alps, deo volente,11 will not extend over more than 2 or 3 weeks. I shall probably then yet undertake a short algologic excursion and as some additional building has to be done in my dwelling, I will finish, before I return to regular work the rearrangement (lodged in a separate house) of the whole herbarium, completed already as far as Calyciflorae, in order that the very immense addition, received during the latter years may obtain there proper place and that in case of any interruption in my own labor or even their entire cessation, no hindrance should arise in your attaining our material in good & regular order.

I have since several years now some chronic bronchitis hanging about me and must endeavour to free myself of so dangerous an affection before the cool season sets in.

Pray be so kind to remember, that the case, shipped per. "Great Britain" on the 16. Septemb had no bill of Lading; should therefore the agents not send it spontaneously, pray send for it.

I have put the Compositae recently in good order for working & described a few new species amongst Angiantheae &c from the Murchison River mainly. In Cassinia I observe, that the too briefly characterized C. arcuata RBr is most likely the Cassinia paniculata of Behr and myself. D.C. omitted the special habitat given by R. Br in the L. transactions and thus I supposed the plant of RBr was a West Austr one.

Our collector has arrived at Queensland.12

Now let me conclude, my dear Mr Bentham, with the repetition of my wish to suppress the ephemeral names of unpublished species in a permanent Standard work like yours, and accept the most cordial wishes for your health happiness & prosperous researches from your

humble & attached

Ferd. Mueller.


In my appendix to the journal of Landsborough you will find new habitats of plants13

I beg to enclose a few buds of Capparis Mitchelli.14 You will observe the calyx has no sutures and that thus the genus cannot possibly be placed with the sepal bearing true Capparides. Whether I correctly referred our several Capparides with such a monophyllous calyx to Busbeckea I cannot ascertain beyond doubt, in as much as I have never seen the typical form of Busbeckea from Norfolk Island.


Abelmoschus albo-ruber



Baloghia lucida


Calophyllum Inophyllum


Capparis Mitchelli

Cassinia arcuata

Cassinia paniculata





Gossypium Australe

Hibiscus ficulneus

Hibiscus hakeifolius


Lagunaea aculeata







Rulingia parvifolia



MS is bound among 1868 letters; the date is confirmed as 1862 by the details of the references to the work for Flora australiensis.
Error for Rulingia parviflora ? See G. Bentham to M, 26 October 1862.
sic .
See under Guttiferae in 'List of Mueller's Australian Plants received in July 1857' in 'Plant Lists. Europe Asia Africa America Australia New Zealand. 1845-63'. vol. 1, p. 319 (RBG Kew, Library and Archives).
Cunningham (1827), p. 533.
Note not found. See G. Bentham to M, 8 October 1862, and Bentham (1863-78), vol. 1, pp. 218-9, where the Norfolk Island and Port Denison specimens are treated as varieties of one species.
See, for an example of M's 'hurt', M to W. Hooker, 27 May 1854. The issue is discussed in Lucas (1995).
Cavanilles (1787), t. 71, f. 1 illustrates Laguna aculeata ; with description on pp. 173-4 .
Wight & Arnott (1834); t. 52, f. 2 in Cavanilles (1787) is named by Cavanilles as Hibiscus sinatus.Wight & Arnott (p. 53) equate both of Cavanilles’ illustrations with Abelmoschus ficulneus.
i.e. God willing.
John Dallachy.
C. mitchellii ?

Please cite as “FVM-62-12-24a,” 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,