From George Day   25 January 1879

Little Bendigo1

Jany 25 /79

To Dr Baron Von Mueller

 

Dear Baron,

I was sorry indeed to hear of your still being on your sickbed, notwithstanding which you have honored me with another of you2 encouraging letters, in reply to which I send a specimen of the Yarran acacia shrub — a specimen of which I omitted taking with me when visiting you — and notes which may contain some useful information.

On looking over my list of plants flowering in August month I find that out of 22 kinds five (5) are acacias viz. Acacia hakeoides, A. colletioides, A clavata, A. lineata, and lastly our present subject the Yarran acacia shrub.

1 — Name:— This shrub is well known between the Lachlan and Darling rivers3 by its aboriginal name Yarran.

2 — Distribution:— With respect to which I might mention that I have not seen this shrub so far south as the Murray river — but it is very likely that it does occur so far south — nor did I hear the name till travelling between the Lachlan & Darling rivers, but it is very common as one goes north.

3 Habitat:— Usually growing in clumps on small open plains of a hard, red, sandy and loamy soil, the surface of which is sometimes bare, (when the shrubs grow very close together) and is then usually very hard on the surface, so much so that it is comparatively impervious to water. Where this shrub occurs thus (on small plains) there are generally to be seen those depressions or hollows known as crabholes (or ("Gilgies" (of the natives) in which water is retained for some time in some of them; these holes are usually caused by wallabies burrowing in and around in a circle, so to speak, until the undersurface is so burrowed out that a heavy fall of rain causes the superstructure to sink down and thus leave an almost circular hollow. Bushmen when in search of water make for Yarran flats for they know that crabholes are generally found in their vicinity When this shrub grows openly, or a clump here and there the intervening space is well covered with different grasses, hopbushes, etc. It also occurs in open Mallee tracts, when the soil is either a mixture of rubbly limestone and sandy soil, or in soil of a sandy nature with limestone subsoil — I don't mean a rocky or lumpy limestone, but a gravelly limestone — stones not larger than an egg or so. These characters4 of soil usually skirt the Yarran flats and have a different class of vegetation in general, such as Mallee etc. (in future notes I will mention the different plants which grow promiscuously in (Mallee without porcupine)5 open Mallee, and porcupine & Mallee tracts).6

(5)7 Form: — Generally of a close spreading habit inclined to pyramidal. In height 15 to 20 feet but usually from 5 to 10 feet

(4) Wood and uses:— The wood is heavy, tough, and durable, yet porous, from which pores exudes gum of a reddish color; in color the bark is dark almost like bullah bark, but darker; the sapwood straw colored, the heartwood dark like Myall, and strongly scented like it — in fact I think it equals any of the Myalls in this respect. It is some times used as stockwhip handles by stockmen, and also by the natives when the Mulga is not readily obtainable. The wood of the Yarran burns well and gives a good heat.

(5) continued. On account of this shrub being of a generally low growth sheep and cattle can easily reach the lower branches, the leaves of which are thick, and not fibrous like some — in fact resembling those of the Loranthus eucalyptioides8 in texture which renders it easy of mastication and not being acrid like some others is largely eaten by sheep and cattle — in fact runs are enhanced in value by the presence of this shrub generally. And squatters advertising do not fail to mention the Yarran as an additional inducement to buyers especially to those desirous of grazing cattle. The leaf is easily distinguished from A. hakeoiodes — which is somewhat resembles — in form and leaf — by the dark bark and scented wood also leaf is shorter, thicker in texture and has 3 apparent longitudinal veins instead of the plain network in the construction of the leaf of A. hakeoides.

6 — Flowers appear in bloom about middle of August and continue in flower till end of September; the flowers have a slight perfume The pods are slow in growing and are flat and broad — I have no specimen in fruit or I would examine the seed to see if the appendage were scarlet as you mentioned.

7 — Cultivation, uses of: — Being of a close habit and producing much herbage9 and also proving a valuable shade tree to sheep, I believe that squatters would renovate their runs of decaying salt and cotton bushes by planting largely of this shrub from nurseries or even sowing seed over any part that might be allowed to rest for some time, in fact I believe that once taking root it would survive the nibbling of sheep as well as the droughts which kill the grasses especially if the Emubush (Eremophila longifolia[)]10 were also to be planted promiscuously but this latter would perhaps not be allowed to grow if sheep had access before the shrubs11 were out of reach — i.e. the top of the plant. Although as shade trees the native willow (acacia) and wilga are about the best for shade being of spreading habit and growing larger, and even if these trees were planted extensively over the barren plains they would render miles of plain tenable in summer time as well as encourage the growth of other herbage.

8 — Diseases etc — The xylophagous grub — a large white one — pierces the heart wood, notwithstanding its hardness. The Loranthus pendulus is attached to the branches. And the tree yields gum plentifully, all of which I believe accelerate the death of the shrub which is useful in more ways than one.

 

Dear Baron

I have not spent the time in rendering my notes more intelligible on account of not having as much leisure as desirable on account of other business and going to Gordon's next week. When I come back (in a week's time) I will forward more notes.

Hoping not to trespass too much on your valuable time I conclude with best wishes for your recovery and have the honor to

Remain

Baron

your obedient servant

George Day

 

P.S. I was greatly pleased to hear of you being desirous of continuing in correspondence. I am sure it is a very great pleasure to me to communicate anything to you who has so encouraged and edified me. Yours respectfully

G. Day

 

Please direct to old address — Little Bendigo

I forward per post open packet with the specimen of Yarran

marked D.

 

Acacia clavata

Acacia colletioides

Acacia hakeoides

Acacia lineata

Eremophila longifolia

Loranthus eucalyptioides

Loranthus pendulus

 
 
Vic.
your?
NSW.
kinds is also written abovecharacters and was presumably added later.
(Mallee without porcupine) inserted.
Day published an account of the vegetation of the area using these distinctions, acknowledging M's assistance in naming plants, Leader, 26 July 1879, p. 8; these may have been named during Day's visit to M.
Day started this section here, but continued it further in the letter.
Loranthus eucalyptoides?
foliage is written above herbage.
editorial addition.
plants is written aboveshrubs.

Please cite as “FVM-79-01-25,” 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 20 April 2024, https://epsilon.ac.uk/view/vonmueller/letters/79-01-25