To Edward Ramsay1    24 July 1874

Mortons Hotel,

Milswyn Str.

S. Yarra



This evening only, dear Mr Ramsay, I got your letter of the 16th inst. It has gratified me much, and as I have an hour or so free of official engagements this evening, I reply at once. So I will go answering through your letter seriatim.

If you will let me know, what numbers of the "Fragmenta" you possess, I will gladly endeavour to complet your set.

The Palms cannot be included in the current number of the Fragmenta, as I have to place the Xyrideae, Xerotideae, Najadeae & Alismaceae into it, all just done.2 Therefore ample time is left yet for attending to any palms, which you may kindly destine for me; and you may depend on my giving due attention to them. The peltate palm must be a marvellous one; what a noble object in culture it would be! Mr Hills recent Report on the bot. Garden of Brisbane,3 which document you likely will have seen, has appended to it descriptions of two supposed new Palms, namely Areca minor, a tufty palm only 2-5 feet high, from Moresby & Russell River and the Bellenden Ker Ranges4 fruit nearly 1" long reddish;— then Cocos Normanbyi, 60 feet high from the Daintree-River. I am however satisfied, that Mr Hill, though he ventured to send the palms out as novelties in an official document, has not sufficient literary means and knowledge to ascertain the exact specific or even generic position of such plants. What I offered to do was this: he should send his plants for description to me; if he had given a temporary name and I found that it could be maintained, I would describe the plant under our united authority; if the name was wrong I would obliterate it, so that no unnecessary addition was made to the already burdensome synonymy. The same proposition I make to you; it is more than most other workers would concede.

The Dicksonia ferntree he describes roughly as D. Herberti. Is it really distinct from D. Youngii5 & is D. Youngii really any thing more than a mere variety of D. squarrosa Swartz. As I have seen them not in free nature, I am timid to judge, but they seem all varieties of one species to me. He says D Herberti is 40 feet high with one foot diameter 4' up. That measurement applies precisely to the largest individuals of D. squarrosa in New Zealand.

The Oreocallis briefly noticed by him was (I speak in confidence) placed by me in that genus. He sent it to me as a Stenocarpus!

He also named & gave notes of the two Musas, naming them after two aborigines!6 I doubt whether that will meet with the approval of the botanical world, as they assuredly should be honored and rewarded for brave deeds in a very different manner. Mr Hill seems not aware that nine sp. with drooping inflorescence and not less than 6 with erect one are known! irrespective of varieties (so for instance M. sapientum & M. paradisiaca counting one only!) It seems a pity, that he should send out descriptions of this kind without any scientific value, and sure to be set aside.

I shall place your valuable letter carefully aside, to use the notes (under due acknowledgement) when I come to the palms.

I wrote lately to Inspector Johnstone7 for specimens of these Musae and some other things; and I imagine, that you will easily get now to the top of Bellenden Ker, as a track is cut. Besides you will find the plants mostly in flower, which was not the case, when Mr H.8 was there and Lieut. Johnstone is sure to send a native as a guide.

I shall gladly elaborate any new species to be sent to me from your dried plants and will gladly indeed place your honored fathers & your own name on record, whenever some new and superb genus may turn up; such may even yet occur among the palms. I should like much yet to learn, how far Cycas Normanbyi extends; it is easily recognized by its sessile fruit-rachis with always 2 seeds only. — It is singular, that Mr Dallachy never sent more but one Musa from Rockinghams Bay. Is not the Alsophila from Rockinghams Bay, to which you refer as distinct the A. excelsa?

The large Pandanus with air roots = P. pedunculatus! R.Br; the one without air roots, similar to the former and very dissimilar to the two others is P. odoratissimus L, of which P. spiralis Br. is a synonym. P monticola has the nuts half-free and small; P. aquaticus has them entirely free. You are at full liberty to refer any of the Directors, with whom you wish to open correspondence, to me. I will gladly then recommend your nursery: As a Discarded Director I have now hardly any horticultural but only phytographic correspondence in Europe. You might place yourself in communication with Dr Hector at Wellington, N.Z., who would be sure to purchase lots of things for the bot. Garden there.

Whole avenue lines of the magnificent Grevillea robusta 20 years old, planted by me, have recently here been cut down! They were just closing in for unbroken lines of shade & just bursting into their floral gold!

Regardfully yr

Ferd von Mueller


The four or five Australian species of Pandanus are:

1, P. odoratissimus (L fil.) P. spiralis RBr. It is not distinct from the Indian species, and is seen by me only on the North coast, may however come to the East coast. From the following it differs already in the absense of air roots.9

2, P. spiralis, RBr

This is the species common on the East coast. So you can name your nuts now accordingly10

3, Pandanus from Lord Howe's Island, said to differ from P. spiralis; but perhaps no due allowance is made for the effect of clime on the plant

4, Pandanus aquaticus F.v.M.

A small species of the N. Coast, Leichhardts Water-Pandanus. It has free nuts.

5, Pandanus monticola FM.

Rockinghams Bay. Our only mountain-species. Nuts small, half connate. Have you any in a ripe state.11

Katakidozamia12 is merely Encephalartos Denisonii. Mr Hill says, that two occur. I know only one.

The Cycas trade has also been created solely by me, though from India it might have been done centuries ago. As the information on the names of your palms remains incomplete, you might write to your correspondents, stating that temporarily only numbers were given to the species of Ptychosperma, but that the exact names would be furnished by me, and this can be done already one month later, if you have leaves & flowers of the different kinds at hand. I should much like to see your Calami; but the investigation is not easy, as alone 80 species occur in India!13



Alsophila excelsa

Areca minor


Cycas Normanbyi

Dicksonia Herberti

Dicksonia squarrosa

Dicksonia Youngii

Encephalartos Denisonii

Grevillea robusta


Musa paradisiaca

Musa sapientum



Pandanus aquaticus

Pandanus monticola

Pandanus odoratissimus

Pandanus pedunculatus

Pandanus spiralis





MS envelope front: 'On Her Majesty's Service. | Edw. P. Ramsay Esq | Dobroyde Plant Nursery | near | Sydney | Government Botanist, Melbourne, 24 July 1874.' Stamped twice: 'MELBOURNE | 5 L | JY 25 | 74'; 'CHIEF SECRETARY VICTORIA | FRANK'. Back stamped three times: 'ASHFIELD | NSW | JY 2[...] | 18[74]'; 'N.S.W.'; 'SYDNEY | JY28 | 74'.
B74.08.01; M however described Livistona leichhardti and L. ramsayi from specimens sent by Ramsay on pp. 221-2, the last two pages of this fascicle.
Hill (1874).
All north Qld.
Dicksonia youngiae ?
Musa charlioi, Musa jackeyi.
R. A. Johnstone.
Walter Hill.
MS marginal annotation by Ramsay: 'Cardwell | E.P.R.'
MS marginal annotation by Ramsay: 'Brisbane | Burnet R. | E.P.R.'
MS marginal annotation by Ramsay: 'Dalrymples Gap'.
Catakidozamia ?
See also E. Ramsay to M, 16 July 1874.

Please cite as “FVM-74-07-24a,” 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 1 March 2024,