To Frederick Barlee   28 October 1867

Albany, 28. Oct. 1867.


This day, dear Mr Barlee, when returning from my excursion to Stirling's Range, I had the happiness of receiving your most kind letter,1 directed to this place. Let me assure Governor Hampton, that I fully appreciate the generous kindness, which prompted his Excellency to invite me to his hospitable viceregal residence, and that I feel sorry indeed, to be unable within the short period allotted to me for my present stay in West Australia to extend my journey to Perth. Thus I am also deprived of the happiness to become personally acquainted with yourself, a pleasure to which I look forward at a future time. Sir Alexander Campbell has been most kind to me, and so were the few settlers, which in my line of travel I could visit; and I ardently wish so much so that it may fall to my share to see more of your singularly bloomy country and of its friendly inhabitants. The vegetation is so rich and varied as to require for its full elucidation far more local field research, as hitherto has been bestowed on it, and if I can arrange departmental business in such a way as to free myself from official obligations for a series of months, I certainly shall wander yet far through the wildest of this wonderful country. We know hitherto so little also of the range of species, of the lines where the eastern plants commence and the western cease and of the localities where tropical & extratropical forms meet, that for the completion of my works such extended journeys, as I indicate, will become almost imperative.

In reference to the future of West Australia I take as a traveller, who traversed widely the continent, a much more hopeful view than many others. The Karri-country is in many places very rich; the basaltic undulations in some localities could by dissemination of perennial fodder-plants, especially ryegrass, white clover & prairiegrass be changed into rich lasting pastures, and in all probability much of the bushy country could be altered into fertile meadows, if first Goats where brought there. In many places water could evidently be kept permanently by some inexpensive measures of leading the winter-rains into clay hollows or artificial excavations, readily to be covered with timber to prevent evaporation. Your scrubs which I thought were extensively impenetrable seem from what I have seen from the summit of Stirling-Range quite the reverse, while the climate appears salubrious & not overpowering hot.

In my itinerating here I regained desire for food, bodily strength & cheerfulness of mind. So I have to be quite grateful to West Australia & perfectly dread to return to the Melbourne summer dusts.

I have had the opportunity of studying here the vegetation in reference to the geological features of the country, having examined sandstone, granit, basalt & saline alluvial or diluvial places & shall probably proceed, before I leave, to some limestone-localities, with a view of noting the phytological differences. A few of the plants, which I collected, are absolutely new to science and never collected before, and a good many eastern species I have now for the first time proved to exist in West Australia.2

It occurs to me, that many of your half saline watercourses might become stocked with eels & crays, both of which we could send from Victoria; nor do I see the slightest impediment whatever of locating the large and palatable Murray-Cod in your fresh waters.

As for useful plants, which from Victoria might be transferred here their number is legion. It needs not my assurance, that I will take my share in the work of introducing them. My short visit here will be lastingly of advantage to my literary operations. I have excited in several intelligent observers the desire to contribute plants to my museum & while thus winning the results of local collectors I shall receive the plants in all stages at all occasions; whereas, at best, I could only once visit each locality. Let me trust, that your friendly appeal, to stir-up collectors in the interior, may meet with a cordial & extensive response. We can really never reduce any utilitarian observation to a solid basis, unless the species of plants, found out to be useful or noxious, are carefully studied & described & thus readily recognized.

The new poison plant from the Beaufort-district is a true Gastrolobium, allied to G. crassifolium, and probably very harmful. The specimens are without perfect fruit & thus I cannot determine the species until I return to my department, where I must compare it. On the Gastrolobia I have still to work toxologically, for which purpose with restored health I hope to get leisure soon.

On the examination of the Stypandra, the blue flannel grass lily, known as the Candiup (?)3 Poison, I shall also enter, especially as it may be of pathological value in eye diseases, for from what I have heard the effect on the vitreous body, sclerotis and lens seems such as to be without any analagous example in the whole empire of plants. I take a large quantity of plants with me for examination.

I will ask Sir John Young, should the right hon. Gentleman proceed via Albany home, to take to this place some Carps imported by him. Mr Carey has just brought the White Swans safely in the Alexandra also two Angoras, one of which he was lucky to purchase.4 The Alexandra brings us the news of Prince Alfreds arrival at Adelaide. This will disappoint the loyal inhabitants of W.A., but I think HRH has not possibly the time left to visit all the colonies originally thought of.5 I will not fail to tell his Highness, how very creditable efforts were made in West Australia for paying homage to the Prince.

Allow me to mention that it has occurred to my mind, how great interests might possibly be served if your Government applied to Sir Rod. Murchison for the temporary service of one of the Officers of the Geolog. Survey of Britain to inspect hurriedly your mineral districts. At a glance it might often be ascertained what the chances would be for mineral wealth. Such an Officer could do in a few months to you an immensity of good at hardly any outlay. Without wishing to be immodest I would ask, whether it would be possible for you to cause 3 or 4 Zamias to be shipped for me as deal good to London. Those here at Albany, of which I shall through Sir Alex. Campbell's aid be able to take a few to Melbourne are all stemless, whereas the object would be to render known tall old plants in Europe. If, as I anticipate, the W.A. Zamia travels without earth and without leaves (just like a log) safely home, like that of Natal, a trade might be readily established. By the way of that, I should therefore like much to get 3 or 4 stems, as long as possible with the roots sent to my Agents in London, Mess. Betham & Blackith (Cox's Quay, Lower Thames Street, London), who will pay the ordinary measurement freight, if these stems could be sent in any [of]6 the woolvessels. I really think, numerous trade orders would at once be given, if the safety of the shipment could be proved. These noble plants are in no other part of the world so easily accessible as in W. Australia, and being slow of growth large plants are utterly unknown as yet in Europe. I intend to send a large number of the quickgrowing & tall Mexican & Californian Cypresses to the Church ground here, also Lebanon Cedars, Cork-oaks, Teaplants &c.

Pray let me know at any time such of your requirements, as may be within my Departmental or private reach.

Your very regardful

Ferd. Mueller.


The honorable

F. Barlee &c &c &c


The Zamiae could go into the ordinary hold of the ship. They require no packing, but should not be placed on a hot place, nor where saltwater could make an ingress or where they could suffer from rats.

I do not precisely remember, whether in my remarks on your Asphalt7 I did state, that it readily dissolves in Eucalyptus oil. May I advise to send a lot of the substance to the Society of Arts,8 with a view that its mercantile value may be ascertained by some of the manufacturing members of the Society[.]9 I am aware, that a similar substance has occasionally realized as much as £20 ­– pr ton. In certain states it can be used for effacing graphitpencil marks, like India Rubber.

The Cigars made from Eucalyptus leaves, for which I have secured on behalf of M. Ramel of Paris a patent also in your colony, will doubtless become a commercial article10



Gastrolobium crassifolium



Letter not found.
The question mark is M's. The place was probaby Candinup, WA.
Thomas Carey, who had been visiting the eastern colonies for the sake of his health, was given charge of one angora goat and a pair of white swans by the Acclimatisation Society of Victoria, to take to WA (Inquirer [Perth], 20 November 1867, p. 3; Perth gazette, 18 October 1867, p. 3).
M understated the depth of feeling in Albany. In reporting that the Prince had bypassed WA, the Perth gazette and West Australian times, 8 November 1867, commented as follows: 'To say that there was a general feeling of disappointment when the intelligence became circulated, would but feebly represent the actual feeling which was expressed. It was not disappointment, for a great majority of the people had before given up any expectation that His Royal Highness would visit this province. The feeling was one rather of anger and indignation, not only at the slight which has been so ostentatiously put upon the colony in passing it by, but also at the needless expense to which we have been put, by the Secretary of State leading us to make preparations for his proper reception as a son of our Sovereign, when it is very evident now it was never intended by the Prince's wet nurses at home that we should see him. Are we as a community to take such treatment quietly? Surely not while we have the right of Public Meeting, let us give the Secretary of State some idea of what we feel upon the subject …'.
editorial addition — MS damaged.
Society of Arts, instituted at London for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce.
editorial addition.
M as Ramel’s appointed attorney applied on Ramel’s behalf for a Victorian patent (Number 897, 24 March 1866) for ‘A new method of preparing the leaves and bark of plants belonging to the genus eucalyptus, and of other plants of the family of myrtaceae, for the purpose of using them as tobacco and snuff’. Ramel also through M applied for the same patent in NSW (Number 164 in 1867), SA (Number 95 in 1867) and Tas (Number 46 in 1867). In WA, an ordinance was passed in 1868 granting Ramel exclusive benefit for his invention (WA Ordinance 32 Victoriae, Number 3, dated 3 August 1868). See George (2012).

Please cite as “FVM-67-10-28,” 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 27 September 2023,