To Edward Ramsay   9 September 1874



Last night, dear Mr Ramsay, I got your two letters of the 3th & 4th,1 and feel delighted at the prospect of your getting off a collector.2 I will of course pay towards the expense, and feel sure you will get fully reimbursed for your own part by what he brings. You should however telegraph to Capt Nares,3 and solicit, that at least one alpine excursion under protection of the naval force should be arranged! It would likely be only a pick nick on a large scale.

Even if you got a small steamer of your own, you could not with safely venture into the mountainous high regions, for it would require a strong party both on land and on the vessel.

I found out, when Mr Hills palm fruits arrived, that his supposed Cocos! is an Areca, near the common Indian Betel nut (A. Catechu), and his supposed Areca is a true Kentia. It is singular, that he should venture to send descriptions almost of no diagnostic value and on such ill digested data, as he obtained, into an official report.4 To protect him to some extent, I have placed his name along with mine as authority of the Normanby palm,5 so that his dedication may not be destroyed; and that is more than likely any one else would have done for him! Pray do not mention this to any one, until you get the new number of the Fragmenta, which is printed, but not yet issued. For when I showed Mr Hill that his supposed Stenocarpus was an Oreocallis, he at once seized publicly on the information without any acknowledgement whatsoever!6 And he may do so in this instance again. But — please — keep this letter, because the next post may bring him letters from Dr Hooker, correcting his errors concerning these palms, and then it is well, that you could show what my independent opinion on the subject had been, though I saw only fruits (no male flowers) of this palm.

Your Pterostylis is what I with Mr Bentham have regarded as a var. magniflora of P. curta. Dr Woolls sent this particular variety from Paramatta. I found it myself in 1855 on the Brisbane River and Leichhardt found it also somewhere in N. S. Wales. Whether on the fresh plant specific differences can be pointed out in comparison with P. curta you or Mr Fitzgerald have ample means of ascertaining. The flowers are much like those of P. Banksii from N. Z., but not the leaves.

As Mr Fitzgerald is a monographer of the N. S W. orchids it will be best to place all material from within N. S Wales boundaries at his disposal

A fruit specimen of Corysanthes would be interesting. But really what is all that in comparison to New Guinea new plants, including doubtless masses of terrestrial orchids just now in flower of Australian type.

I wished I could go myself. Have you any precise date, when the Challenger will be at Cape York & how long she will continue her researches at New Guinea?

You speak about an enclosed parasitic plant; it is however not in your letter; if it is the "horsehair" plant or as some call it the "negro-hair" then I have never seen its fructifications.

Let me hope that as you belong to a younger generation than myself, that you will soon be restored to health.

Regardfully yr

Ferd. von Mueller


I could not think of communicating with the Journal, which you mention after its outrageous behavior towards me, unless it reversed its tactics completely concerning me.7 Your best plan is to communicate any such information yourself to any of the two Sydney weekly papers, both of which are very friendly to me. Can not Capt Goodenough8 be induced to send ye[t] again a ship for a short time for mountain ascents to N Guinea I would go in her then if allowed! and you could be my companion or anyone you choose.


Areca Catechu





Pterostylis Banksii

Pterostylis curta varmagniflora


Letters not found.
See M to E. Ramsay, 1 September 1874.
Captain of the oceanographic expedition vessel, HMS Challenger .
Hill (1874), p. 6.
Hill's Cocos normanbyi was transferred to Areca normanbyi , attrributed to 'Hill et Mueller' as authors, in B74.09.02, p. 235. On the same page M transferred Hill's Areca minor to Kentia minor, without joint authorship.
Hill described Oreocallis wickhami in Hill (1874), p. 6.
Journal not identified.
James Goodenough.

Please cite as “FVM-74-09-09,” in Ɛpsilon: The Ferdinand von Mueller Collection accessed on 20 September 2021,