To William Brewer   24 April 1864

Melbourne botanic Garden


My dear Sir.

I take the earliest opportunity of acknowledging your letter, dated 1 Dec 1863,1 which reached me only within the last days. It appears to me, from the results of comparative experiments instituted in my garden, that Bromus (Ceratochloa) unioloides, an American Grass would be far the most valuable for naturalisation in your pasture-country. This noble grass is perennial, produces a broad soft nutritious leaf & endures great vicissitudes of climate. Amongst Australian Grasses I think Anthistiria Australis (our Kangaroo-grass) and Eragrostis Brownii, both perennial, would prove most acceptable for your country. Of the former I can only send a very small supply of seed this season, as it is too late to gather it this autumn; but of the latter I have some collected as soon as I received your letter and trust it will prove sufficient for an experiment. But would it not be well to look to Europe as indeed to America for the most important forage plants to render your pastures as productive as possible? Lolium perenne & Trifolium repens have but few rivals anywhere. For the latter your summers may be too dry when the plant is grown away from humid localities, but if the White Clover is not already a native of California I would avise2 it to be sown & established on all waters and in any place where it will maintain its existence. It is wonderful how this plant has of late years spread over Australia, to many parts of which it has become a great boon.

I am not surprised that the Alfalfa will not endure your summers in exposed localities, but for places available for irrigation it will undoubtedly prove always eligible. In calcareous soils especially but also in other grounds Hedysarum Onobrychis, also as you are aware a perennial, would yield an excellent fodder.

In answer to your question, what constitutes the Bulk of our forage, I can only say, that it is extremly varied according to locality and that the gregarious species with exception of Anthistiria australis, Poa Brownii (Eragrostis) and Microlaena stipoides bear no favorable comparison in point of yield to any of the five plants of the northern hemisphere, which I have mentioned. It is true that we have many excellent grasses, but either they are not gregarious or they grow like Panicum decompositum in rather warmer regions than yours. At least they could probably only be naturalized in the southern portion of the Californian State. There especially as a cultivated plant the Sorghum would prove valuable.

I have not referred to any of our annual plants however valuable periodically and locally, as they would be indesirable for introduction into your country for climatic reasons.

A friend, Mr G. Coppin, proceeds in a few weeks from here to California, and to this Gentleman I will entrust a collection of such seeds as are still obtainable this season & useful for your experiments. Should any of these produce in your clime plants, that promise to become of importance to your country, I shall feel a particular pleasure then to cause a large quantity of seeds of them for you to be gathered hereafter.

Accept my grateful appreciation of your kindness of sending me the seeds of the rare & remarkable Darlingtonia. I see no reason why such and many other interesting plants should not be naturalized in adequate parts of this country, an object I have in view with many of your noble pines.

I have been exceedingly gratified with the unexpected honor of being elected into your well organized and active Academy,3 and shall strive to deserve the honor.

If I can in any way be of avail in aiding your important agronomic researches, pray command my services without hesitation.

Cordially yours

Ferd. Mueller


W. H. Brewer Esq.


Anthistiria Australis

Bromus unioloides

Ceratochloa unioloides


Eragrostis Brownii

Hedysarum Onobrychis

Lolium perenne

Microlaena stipoides

Panicum decompositum

Poa Brownii


Trifolium repens

Letter not found.
M was elected an Honorary Member of the Californian Academy of Natural Sciences on 19 October 1863.

Please cite as “FVM-64-04-24a,” 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 3 March 2024,