From Charles French1    5 August 1872

Melbourne Botanic Garden


Baron Von Mueller



Having observed a paragraph in the Age newspaper of the 3d of this month (and which I have enclosed)2 containing certain remarks concerning the planting of the grounds at the Industrial Schools Sunbury, I thought that as I was sent up to that place by your instruction, it might not be thought out of place by you to mention to you the probable causes of the many failures that have taken place, and at the same time to mention the particular kinds of trees that appear to have thriven better than others. In the first place on going around the grounds with the Superintendent Mr Scott, I at once noticed the general sickly appearance of all Coniferae excepting perhaps Pinus insignis. P. Massoniana Cupressus Macrocarpa, Lindley's torulosa & Bentham's, whereas P. [Deodora], pinasta,3 Halleppensis,4 excelsa, and several other good species were mere shrubby bushes. The Mexican Oaks and in fact all the Oaks seemed to be quite stunted. Blue Gums seemed to do well, but a number has been broken by the Cattle and the remainder were covered with the larvae of a Lepidopterus insect, but I think that with proper care they would do well. Another drawback seemed to me to be that the children (so I was informed) had broken off by pinching the leading shoots of a large number of the Coniferae which alone would tend to retard their growth, further that instead of Brush being used for shelter stones had been substituted and in the Summer time the radiation of the sun upon the stones could be almost sufficient in itself to destroy any plant and to which circumstance I drew the attention of the Superintendent at the time of my visit. Another cause which is still more formidable was the announcement that Brackish Water was used in the watering during the Summer months and when injudiciously applied, as would be likely as the boys I was informed done the watering, would without a doubt be sufficient to account for the non success of the whole planting affair. The very bleak & exposed situation would of course have to be considered as I noticed that those plants on the sheltered side of the hill certainly looked better than those facing the S.W. & N.W. winds — and as I believe I am right in saying that the greater plants sent from here were in pots — but as I did not see the plants that were sent previously to my being at Sunbury I am not in a position to say any more as regards them. On the other hand I know that such plants as were selected by me under your instructions since that time were of the most suitable kinds and were selected with care & judgement and were of the kinds that were found by me to be doing well at Sunbury. I may also mention that the System adopted there of sinking holes for plants in almost solid rock is to be condemned, and I think it is unnecessary to look for more causes than those I have mentioned to you above, to account for the failure. I should not have brought the matter before your notice again had I not seen the enclosed paragraph, and which is in my opinion derogatory to the department, yourself & me.

I have the honor to be —

Your Obedient Servant

Chas French5



Cupressus Macrocarpa

Cupressus torulosa

Pinus Deodora

Pinus excelsa

Pinus Halleppensis

Pinus insignis

Pinus Massoniana

Pinus pinasta

See also M to J. Casey, 6 August 1872.
A newspaper clipping is pinned to the letter: 'We understand the whole, or nearly the whole of the trees planted out by Dr. Mueller on the Sunbury Industrial School ground have died, and Mr. Ferguson has received instructions from the Chief Secretary to purchase a sufficient number of trees suitable for the locality, and to undertake the supervision of the planting himself.' (Age, 3 August 1872, p. 4).
Pinus pinaster?
Pinus halepensis?
MS annotation in an unknown hand, 13 August 1872: 'noted by President' [i.e. J. Casey, President of the Board of Lands and Works].

Please cite as “FVM-72-08-05,” 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 7 October 2022,