To William Thiselton-Dyer   26 November 1880



I have to acknowledge, dear Mr Dyer, the receipt of the large packet of flowers of Panicum spectabile, which you kindly caused to be forwarded.1 I say flowers, because so far as I have examined this sending, it does not contain any matured seeds. Of course, you never examined the contents, & the negros, who collected these flowers, might know nothing about grass — I wrote last year to Dr Kirk also to the Governor of Guinea,2 to send me the Coapim seeds in exchange for Eucalyptus seeds, & suppose this was the cause of Kew getting the present sending.

I am just in turmoil for the Exhibition3 with jurors work, which takes up much time to make little show. So is it with the Social (Science) Congress,4 in which I am just forced to give against my will the inaugural Adress for agricult, horticult & pastoral pursuits. What a stultification to me, having not been in any garden since 1873!

Your long letter to answer must stand over til next mail. You are singularly wrong in your view of my departm. affairs, and the statesman, your friend, must have given a very one-sided account of my position now. Miss North,5 though she spared me only a few moments of her time for a visit to my poor temporary place, can give you a more correct account.

Regardfully your

Ferd von Mueller.


Will you make kindly a new effort for Panicum spectabile.6



Panicum spectabile

Seeds were sent from Kew with a circular letter, 11 September 1880, to a number of places. M had requested such seeds, eighteen months earlier; see M to J. Hooker, 28 May 1879, note 3.
M probably wrote to Lt. Colonel Agostinho Coelho, first governor of Portuguese Guinea, now Guinea-Bissau; before 1879 it had been administered from Cape Verde (Mendy and Lobann [2013], p. 57). Neither that letter nor the letter to Kirk has been found.
International Exhibition, Melbourne, 1880-1.
M was President of the Agricultural and Horticultural Section of the Social Science Congress held in Melbourne in 1880 in conjunction with the International Exhibition. For his presidential address, delivered on 29 November 1880 (Argus, 30 November 1880, p. 6), see B80.13.09.
Marianne North.

Annotation by William Watson: Panicum spectabile [has] germinated at Kew [but] not very satisfactorily. W.W.' Doubtful words are editorial additions where text has been obscured by binding.

f. 241 is a cutting from the Argus, 20 October 1881, p. 10, col. d, headed ‘Victoria Agricultural Society’, a report of the Society’s quarterly meeting on 18 October 1881 at which, among other things: ‘A parcel of seeds was received from Baron von Mueller, consisting of a new Panicum, furnished by Sir Joseph Hooker … which was distributed amongst the members present, who were requested to report to the committee the results of their experiments’. The seeds distributed may not have been those sent by Kew in September 1880, see M to W. Thiselton-Dyer, 22 February 1881, and M to J. Hooker, 5 February 1881.

f. 242 is a seed packet stamped On Her Majesty's Service and marked From Dr Schomburgk. “Panicum spectabile” of the Adelaid Bot. Garden. = Sorghum ?halepense [H]T.

f. 244 is marked ‘Copy’: I wrote to Schomburgk about the “Panicum spectabile” coming up Guinea Grass and his “P. maximum” turning out Sorglum [sic: Sorghum] He writes back and says, " no doubt some mistake was made by the seed collector," and also sends a plant and seed of the true (Adelaide) "P spectabile." But this (as you will see by some I enclose) is merely the same as that previously sent as “P maximum,” namely a Sorglum allied to S. halepense. So that settles the matter as far as Adelaide is concerned. I cannot say I am impressed with Dr S.’s critical knowledge of Grasses, as Sorglum is so very well-known and distinct a genus from Panicum. Annotated below text by J. Hooker: Dr Trimen | Peradeniya, Ap. 20. 82.

f. 246 is an extract of a letter, annotated by [J. Hooker]: [J] Thurston Fiji Septr. 9. 84.:

I have been in communication with Baron von Mueller who is greatly interested in the Grass ‘Panicum Spectabile’ which you sent me from Kew some years ago. He also distributed some in Victoria but no one seems to have cared for it. Those to whom I gave it found it a most valuable grass … Von Mueller is working out some doubt in his mind as to the identity of Panicum spectabile of West Africa and Caapim of Brazil and I am glad to have been able to furnish him such complete and ample specimens of the variety sent from Kew as Panicum spectabile. [The cited correspondence between Thurston and M concerning the grass has not been found, but see J. Thurston to M, 18 July 1884.]

Please cite as “FVM-80-11-26,” in Ɛpsilon: The Ferdinand von Mueller Collection accessed on 26 October 2021,