To James Casey   17 May 1873

Melbourne bot. Garden,

17 May 1873


In reply to your communication, dated 10 May,1 I have the honor to inform you, that the Pemphygus or Chernes vitifolii or the Phylloxera vastatrix may certainly find its way into our colony by the importation of growing vineplants of fresh cuttings, as of the very minute or ova or even larvae of this insect some may adhere to such Vines and escape observation. It was this fear, which induced Dr Hooker, C.B., Director of the Royal botanic Garden of Kew, to collect various official and other documents sent on the subject to the British Government in a printed form, to warn the colonies now after the insect has become very frequent in France and some other countries apparently from introduction from the United States2 of perhaps impending danger in respect to the introduction of this Pemphygus in any of its forms. It must however be observed, that any prohibitory action, to introduce Vine plants from Europe, North Africa or North America or any other portion of the globe, where already this Pemphygus prevails, may mitigate but will not prevent the danger, unless all the Australian colonies take united action in a measure of preventing importations of vine plants from countries, where the Pemphygus is already known to exist. For it is obvious, that this insect, once established in one of the Australian colonies will find in its winged state or by land or sea-communication soon its way to all the other Australian colonies, and this probably with the same celerity, which characterised the spreading of this Pemphygus through various countries of Europe recently.

I deemed it my duty a few years ago, when this Pemphygus, then made known as Phylloxera vastatrix, first appeared in France, to place at the disposal of a Melbourne journal the important essays on this insect by Dr Planchon, the Director of the botanic Garden of Montpellier, one of my correspondents for many years. Since, the questions concerning this Pemphygus have been amply discussed in local papers. This is not the place to dwell at length on the remedial agents to be employed to destroy this Pemphygus, should it unfortunately find its way to our colony, but cursorily I may remark, that (as Dr Hooker suggests) carbolic acid very much diluted with water has been used already as a very cheap trial remedy in the United States against this destructive little animal, just as we are accustomed to use carbolic acid in our conservatories of plants. In like manner all the other substances, used against minute animal life on plants, such as soap sud, lime, various volatile and fixed oils, several mercantile compounds purposely prepared &c might be used.

How far Carbon Bisulphide can be used with advantage in cases like these without injury to the plants themselves requires to be proved. I use this substance constantly with the best results in my Museum according to the method of my late friend Mons Lénormand. Many other substances might be tried against this Pemphygus. I would also recommend that for surpressing evils like these every encouragement should be given to the introduction of such insect-feeding birds as are not other wise hurtful; also that the preservation of those of the native birds, which live largely on insects, should engage every attention, so very many of them being destroyed by mere play or sport. I have finally to direct attention to the likelihood of grafting successfully the grape vine on stocks of some of the very numerous species of Vitis of different parts of the globe, one even, my Vitis hypoleuca, occurring in Gippsland. In all probability the roots of many as yet uncultivated species of Vitis would be less liable to attacks of this Pemphygus than those of Vitis vinifera.

I have the honor to be,

Sir, your obedient servant

Ferd. von Mueller.

Direct. botan. Garden.


The honorable the President of the Board of Lands & Work3


Vitis hypoleuca

Vitis vinifera

Letter not found.
now after … United States is a marginal addition by M.
On 5 May the Secretary of Agriculture, A. Wallis, minuted: 'I think it advisable that the Government should take steps to prohibit the importation of vines and vine cuttings into Victoria until a remedy shall have been found for the Phylloxera vastatrix. Such prohibition, I think, would not damage in a marked degree the interests of vignerons in Victoria few wine grapes being now imported into this country, but it probably would injure the trade of those nurserymen who occasionally introduce new varieties of table grapes; and as the benefit which the country derives from this source would in no way compensate for the loss which would be sustained should the Phylloxera vastatrix once appear in our midst, I think it advisable that some measures should be taken to protect the country against a visitation of this dreaded scourge.' Casey asked M on 7 May: 'to say if there is any danger likely to arise thrgh the importation of either cutgs or grapes.' M's reply has not been found. A bill 'to enable the Governor in Council to prohibit the importation of Diseased Grapevines and Grapevine Cuttings' was drafted and forwarded by Wallis to the Commissioner of Trade and Customs on 26 May 1873. This was introduced into Parliament on 26 June, and the Act was proclaimed on 16 September.

Please cite as “FVM-73-05-17,” 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 30 September 2022,