Plant collecting in The Illawarra

21st October 1818

On this day, 21st October 1818, Allan Cunningham was collecting plants in The Illawarra region of New South Wales. He saw “large clumps” of the Gymea Lilly (latin name: Doryanthes excelsa) on the roadside.

Ida Lee’s transcription of Mr Cunningham’s journal, for Wednesday 21st October 1818, reads as follows:

Leaving the little farm we resumed our journey at an early hour, continuing our route southerly about 2 miles, when the road abruptly terminates, or rather continues by paths or partially beaten ways, striking east and west. Taking the former, we arrived at once upon an entire change of country, of a rugged sandstony character, alternated by extensive tracts of spongy bogs. Crossing a run of water, the drainings of a morass called King’s Fall, which empties itself into Botany Bay, we pursued our course generally S.S.E. over this diversified bad country, affording me much variety of common Port Jackson plants. Bauera rubioides and Sprengelia incarnata are particularly attractive on the margins of the Fall.

The swamps afforded me some specimens of Euphrasia speciosa. The dwarf Banksia latifolia abounds in these bogs, of which it is difficult to discover fruit with ripe seeds; and the whole was bespangled withUtricularia uniflora, and the common Xyris. Large clumps of the statelyDoryanthes excelsa presented themselves on the roadside, generally in a sub-humid situation, bearing at this period the remains of last year’s flowering stems, varying from 10-15 feet high. The Government horse, afforded me by His Excellency’s order, not caring to face the rugged boggy country in this day’s stage, could not be induced to proceed from the King’s Fall onward. It obliged me to avail myself of the fortunate circumstances of an empty cart passing to the mountain for red cedar, which I hired to carry my luggage 14 miles, sending my servant back with the Government cart to the little farm I left this morning, with directions to follow me with the horse as speedily as possible.

About 2 o’clock we arrived at what is termed the Mountain Top, along the ridge of which the road runs before it strikes down to the sea coast and country in the vicinity of Five Islands,[*] of which we have a bird’s eye view from the immediate edge of the mountain summit. A sudden change again takes place, for, in an instant, upon leaving the morass[p410] with stunted small Eucalypti, we entered as it were, within the dark shades of a tropical forest, composed of very lofty timber of the red cedar Tristania albens [=Syncarpia laurifolia] or Turpentine Tree; large Eucalypti, of the species called Blue Gum, and many other trees–only existing in such situations.Epacrideae (Trochocarpa); with large specimens of Corypha australisand Alsophila, a tree-fern of New South Wales; the whole being strongly bound together with immense scandent and volubilous plants, that cannot fail to arrest the attention and admiration of the most indifferent observer.

[* The Five Islands being the Red Point and Tom Thumb’s Islets (five in all), which are to be seen off the coast.] ((Source: Ida Lee’s Early Explorers in Australia Chapter 11))