To William Thiselton-Dyer   29 January 1883



In continuation of former communications on Cycadeae1 I wish to tell you, dear Mr Dyer, that I have at the Gov. photographic Office now a ripe female amentum of Macrozamia Douglasii for you.2 An account of this species will appear in the february Number of the Melbourne "Chemist",3 through which periodical I am endeavouring to inspire the now numberous Pharmac. Gentlemen all over Australia, to help in obtaining locally material for the completion of the Austr. "Flora".4 This Macrozamia, more even than M. Macdonnelli,5 shows the real transit to Encephalartos so far as the extreme abbreviation of its fruit-scales is concerned.6 Anatomical differences in the stems I have not S. Afric material to trace out. You will get nuts &c when dry.

The hon. J. Thurston has now sent me also some detached male scales of Cycas Seemanni,7 which if they are always of the same form show a great difference between them and those of C. [ci]rcinalis & C. Rumphii. These scales belong to the var. with globular nuts, and construct an amentum of 2 – 2½ feet length, but only 4 - 4½ inches width. Also this you will receive, as I have asked Mr Thurston for photographic purposes to send a complete ♂ cone.

I further asked him, to try to get the ♂ of the oval and larger fruited Cycas of Fiji, as that would lead to a crucial test for settling, whether one or two Cycas-species occur in the extensive Fiji-Group. My Papuan collections are for want of space not accessible this moment, as I must constantly make some shift or other, after being deprived of my house &c. When I can get at them, I will look up the Cycas Papuana for you.8 Dr Beccari ought to have specimens also. After the rejunction of Widdringtonia with Callitris, the geographic separation of genera of Gymnosperms breaks down.

Regardfully your

Ferd. von Mueller.


You will see a puerily article on the Melb. bot. Garden in Hayters Yearbook for 1881-1882,9 probably written by the Curator.10 A fine consolation to the poor selectors, to grow Ricinus-seeds for lubrication-oil in competition of Indian labor at 2d or 3d a day!11 I gave Ricinus-seeds away 30 years ago, to grow the plant for medicinal oil locally, and to have the leaves as a galactagogue. The German Missionary Rev. Mr Hagenauer obtained 20 years ago the roots of Canna edulis from me; and already years before the present Curator came here, the Natives of the Mission-Station of Mr Hagenauer prepared this kind of Arrow root by the ctws!12

This is what is proverbially called here "hoodwinking the people."

When will the fourth vol. of the Flora Capensis13 be out?

We are now witnessing here under Dr Rudall's hands the wonderful effect of the seeds of Abrus precatorius in ciliar Trichosis and for removing granulation without inoculation according to Dr de Weckers new method.14


Abrus precatorius


Canna edulis


Cycas circinalis

Cycas Papuana

Cycas Rumphii

Cycas Seemanni


Macrozamia Douglasii

Macrozamia Macdonnelli



Most of M’s letters to W. Thiselton-Dyer in 1882 mention the supply of specimens or photographs of Macrozamia, Zamia or Cycas spp.
See A. MacDowell to M, 17 January 1883.
For discussions of the proposal to supplement Flora australiensis, see Lucas (2003), pp. 272–4, and Clements (1998).
Macrozamia macdonnellii?
M described the species as Encephalartos douglasii.
See J. Thurston to M, 13 January 1883.
See W. Thiselton-Dyer to M, 24 November 1882.
Victorian year-book for 1881-2, pp. 489-91.
William Guilfoyle.
The article reports, inter alia, that 'some sixty or more persons — farmers, selectors, and others throughout the colony — have been supplied with seeds of Ricinus communis — the castor oil tree — and other useful plants, for the purpose of testing their value as remunerative crops.'
cwts (= hundredweights)? The article reported that 'a vast quantity of a variety of arrowroot, Canna edulis … has been propagated and largely distributed. Some of the arrowroot manufactured from this plant is already in the market, having been prepared at the Ramahyuck Aboriginal Station, under the superintendence of the Rev. F. A. Hagenauer, as well as by other private enterprise.'
The second section of the fourth volume of Flora capensis, edited by W. Thiselton-Dyer as a continuation of Harvey & Sonder (1859-65), appeared in 1904; the first section was published in 1909 (Thiselton-Dyer, 1896-1925). Volume 6, the first continuation volume of Harvey & Sonder (Dyer) was published out of sequence in 1896-7 (See TL2, entry 2448).
The final sentence is the only text on f. 49, and is included here as a possible enclosure to this letter. Rudall reported using Jequirity, a common name for Abrus precatorius, to a meeting of the Victorian Branch of the British Medical Association in 1883 (Argus,26 May 1883, p. 5 col a); de Wecker had described its use in Annales d’oculistique, vol 88, p. 24.

Please cite as “FVM-83-01-29b,” in Ɛpsilon: The Ferdinand von Mueller Collection accessed on 20 September 2021,