From John Thurston1    12 February 1879

per S. S. "Suva".

Fiji 12th February 1879

My dear Sir,

I am really ashamed at having failed to send you the flowers of the plantain for which You wrote so many months ago.2 The fact is the "Soaqa" = "Soanka" is not very plentiful near Levuka where I am living, but having planted three or four suckers in my own garden a short time prior to the receipt of your note I thought nothing easier than to accede to your request. Mais "L'homme propose"3 — Just as my largest specimen was about to flower, a heavy shower of rain followed by the hard squalls of our westerly monsoon brought it to the ground.

I have now decided to send you up some living suckers so that they may be grown in some conservatory or hot house and thus enable you to study the character of the plant at your ease & convenience. This plan will be productive I hope of better results in every way, though it does involve a lapse of Time —

Knowing your interest in such matters I avail myself of this opportunity to tell you that I believe I have found a new and very beautiful variety of "Cyathea", neither described in Hookers "Synopses Filicum",4 nor mentioned by Seemann in his "Flora Vitiensis"5

The variety which I think it has been my fortune to have first discovered has a singular and persistent characteristic which if seen before would assuredly have been noticed by such minute observers as Pterodologists usually are.

In many respects "C propinqua" appears to resemble the one I am about to describe, or rather attempt to describe.

Frond ample (i.e. 8. 10. 12 feet) bi pinnate, (excepting the lower pinna of each frond which are tripinnate on the lower side only) pinnules 3 to 4 inches long 3/4 to 1 in broad, often short stalked, cut down to, or nearly to, the rachis.

Lower pinna 2-3 feet long. upper pinnules 3 1/2 to 5 in, cut half way down to rachis.

lower pinnules 13-15 in long — strong stalked — bearing tertiary pinnules 3 in long, cut down nearly (2/3d of the way) to the rachis

I dont think the above very intelligible & so I send a dried specimen cut down a little for convenience of transportation. I may add that the strong lower pinnules are in every case four in number. after that they assume the same form as the others.

I planted one in a damp glen in my garden in order to watch the vernation. Yesterday the delicate young pinna unfolded — and today the pinnules are expanding The upper ones are about 1/4 inch long —the lower are brilliant green naked little stems nearly 2 inches long already. The habit I have noticed is therefore persistent in the strictest sense of the word. I shall be very much pleased if you tell me I have not — as most amateurs do — found a "mares nest". In case this variety should be new I put a root or two in the case. No doubt they will go up safely at this warm season of the year.

Some time ago the Director of the Gardens Mr Guilfoyle (who was once here in HMS "Curacoa"6) asked me to supply the gardens with a complete lot of Fijian Ferns & I am endeavouring to do so as time permits me — I send him this time about 60 dried specimens & should much like that you saw them or if you would like to examine a set yourself I will send duplicates of those I have. My own opinion is that very many of our Ferns have yet to be described. My friend Mr Wall of Columbo — a very zealous Pterodologist sent me lately a complete set of Ceylon ferns and I observe many are common to both countries.

I send the dry specimen of Cyathea to Mr N K Thomson of McEwen & Co of your city who very generously permits me to send cases of plants & specimens &c in his steamer the "Suva" free of charge[.]7 I owe much to his courtesy & personal kindness in this respect.

Believe me my dear Sir

very faithfully yours

John B Thurston8


Cyathea propinqua

MS annotation by M: 'Answ 20/3/79 F.v.M.' Letter not found.
Letter not found.
But 'Man proposes'. Cf. the old adage 'Man proposes, God disposes'.
W. Hooker & Baker (1865-8).
Seemann (1865-73).
Thurston's memory seems to have let him down here. HMS Curacoa was the flagship of the Royal Navy's Australia Station during the New Zealand wars (1860-64) and would undoubtedly have visited Fiji during that time. However, it was taken out of commission in 1867 and broken up in 1869. Guilfoyle visited Fiji in 1868 aboard HMS Challenger.
editorial addition.
MS annotation by M: 'Col. Secretary.'

Please cite as “FVM-79-02-12,” 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,