Extract from The Journal of Botany Volume IV, London 1842;

Transcribed from the original text
and edited by Diane Challenor 

Part 1
13th July 1791 to March 1822

This extract begins at page 231 of
The Journal of Botany Volume IV 1842


Allan Cunningham’s Early Life
13th July 1791 to 29th October 1814

The Late Allan Cunningham was the eldest son of Mr Allan Cunningham, a native of Renfrewshire, N.B [Scotland]. His mother, whose maiden name was Dickin, was a native of Shropshire [England]. She was twice married: first to a Mr Juson, and secondly, on the 20th August, 1790, to Mr [Allan] Cunningham [the elder], by whom she had two children, – the subject of the present memoir, who was born at Wimbledon, Surry, on the 13th of July, 1791, – and a second son, Richard, born 12th February, 1793*. At this place his parents resided for some time, [p232] and there Allan’s earlier years were passed. In due course he was sent to School at Putney, to the academy of the Rev. Mr Adams, under whose care he received an excellent education; and of whose attentions he ever spoke with strong feelings of affection and respect.

*This only brother of Allan Cunningham was unfortunately killed by the natives of New South Wales, while attached to Major Mitchell’s exploratory expedition to discover the course of the Darling River, in April, 1835. For a memoir and portrait see Companion to Botanical Magazine, Vol.II;, p.210. Mitchell’s Journeys in Australia, vol. I. p 177, &c.

After leaving school, he was for a short time in a Conveyancer’s office in Lincoln’s Inn; but the dull duties and prolix technicalities of the law were subjects ill fitted for the investigating mind of Allan Cunningham; and fortunately for science, an introduction to botanical pursuits was placed in his path, by his being engaged by W.T. Aiton, Esq., at the time the second edition of the Hortus Kewensis was preparing. This situation was also happily the means of introducing him to the notice of R. Brown, Esq., while the talented gentleman and profound botanist was superintending the progress of the latter volumes of the above work through the press. 

Shortly after the publication of this work (1814), the political aspect of Europe reverting once more to a state of peace, the subject of sending out botanical collectors was revived by the late lamented Sir Joseph Banks, and the superintendent of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew (Mr Aiton), and the government having acceded to the application of those gentlemen, arrangements were subsequently made for forwarding two botanical collectors to the southern hemisphere. Sir Joseph Banks, having recommended Allan Cunningham as being competent to fulfil the necessary duties of botanical collector to the Royal Gardens at Kew, he received his appointment, which bears date the 9th September, 1814; and

On the 3rd of October 1814, in company with Mr James Bowie, who was joined with him in the commission, embarked at Spithead on board the “Duncan 74”, commanded by Captain Chambers, and finally sailed from Plymouth on the 29th of the same month. 

28th December 1814 to 28th September 1816

On Christmas Day they sighted Cape Frio, and came to anchor [p233] at Rio de Janeiro on the 28th December [1814]. For the next three months our travellers remained at Rio, awaiting the dilatory proceedings of the Portuguese government in granting them permission to travel in the interior, procuring their passports, and making necessary preparations for their journey. During their residence at Rio, collections were made of the plants and seeds found in the vicinity. The botanical gardens were also visited, and a correspondence instituted with the superintendent of the Botanic Garden, Senhor Gomez, and also with M. Langsdorff, who at that period resided in Rio, and who kindly showed them his collections, and afforded them much information for their future proceedings; they also hired a Portuguese to accompany them, and take charge of their negroes, mules, and baggage

On the 3rd April [1815], they took their departure from Rio for San Paulo; on the 5th they were detained at a Venda, near Taguahy, until the 13th [April 1815], by continued rains, which flooded the country they had to travel over, and rendered it impassable for a time. They also found themselves compelled to increase their train of mules, in consequence of the inefficiency of some of the animals they had purchased in Rio; they also hired a Portuguese to accompany them, and take charge of their negroes, mules, and baggage. 

Shortly after leaving the Venda, they commenced the ascent of the mountains by a very winding road exceedingly rough, and full of holes and channels formed by the heavy rains, and now filled with water, and encumbered with large fragments of rock that had fallen on it; the mules, being frequently compelled to stop from the steepness of the road, causing their loads to shift, rendered the ascent exceedingly fatiguing and tedious. Having, however, reached the summit, they halted for the night at a Rancho or shed, called a roça de Reij, where they suffered much from the cold, the upper part of the mountain being enveloped in clouds. 

Among the plants collected since their departure from Rio were species of the following genera:

  • Pontederia, 
  • a polyandrous aquatic with yellow flowers (Limnocharis humboldtii), 
  • Artistolochia, 
  • Menyanthes, (Villarsia), 
  • Oncidium, 
  • Guarea, 
  • Gomphia, &c. 

On the 14th [April 1815], [p234] Mr Cunningham’s journal states – 

“We continued our journey, and having travelled for thirteen hours over the mountains, arrived in the evening at a large Ranch which is about half a mile to the right of San Joao Marcos, and where we passed the night. On the road near this place, we saw a species of Buginvillea, very beautiful, and a Ruellia, with red tubular flowers. The road this day was in many parts rugged and steep, and we arrived in the course of the afternoon at a river, where we were obliged to unload the mules and carry the luggage over, to avoid its being wetted.

“15th [April 1815]. In the course of last night, we unfortunately lost our iron pot containing our breakfast. It was stolen by some of the troopers, although our servants slept round the fire the whole night. We were obliged to remain all the next day at the Rancho, being detained by one of our mules having escaped from us; and it was not caught till too late to proceed farther this night.

“16th [April 1815]. Continued our journey early this morning; arrived at the Rio de Pirahy, which divides the captainship of Rio de Janeiro from that of San Paulo; conveyed our luggage over the river in a canoe, and swam the mules across, passed the mountains, and reached a little Venda near the Rio de Pedras in the evening. On the road saw species of the following genera that was new to us: – Begonia, Solanum, Lobelia, (scarlet-flowered,) and Justicia.

“17th [April 1815}. Left the Venda and continued our journey: stopped at a small Rancho at midday to rest our mules which were much fatigued; dined in the usual manner upon Feijoens, or black Negro beans, boiled. Proceeded on our march, and halted at a Venda at eight in the evening. We this day saw large trees of Araucaria (Brasiliensis).

“18th [April 1815}. Remained at the Venda the whole of the day to rest the mules; at a small distance from the Venda saw more of the Araucaria.

“19th [April 1815}. Proceeded on our journey this morning, and arrived at Lorenzo at three P.M.; on the road collected specimens of [p235] a beautiful orange-flowered Epidendrum, also of a Canna nov. sp. and a species of Ruellia allied to R. cristata.

“20th [April 1815}. Resumed our journey, and arrived at 7 P.M. at a small Rancho near Estiva. The hedges were formed of a species of Bromelia (Pinguin?) with their fruit in bunches nearly ripe.

“21st [April 1815}. Left the Rancho at daylight, and continued our journey to Mineiro, where we arrived at 3 P.M.

“22nd [April 1815}. Left Mineiro at 7 A.M., passed Pau Grande at 12, and arrived at the Villa de Lorena at 2 P.M., where we put up for the day at a very comfortable Venda with a spare room, having a door with a lock and key to it; we had not lodged in such a room since we left Taguahy. On the road we saw some Indian children with the flowers of a species of Amaryllis, which they had gathered in the neighbouring wood for the purpose of ornamenting themselves. Found a scarlet-flowered Justicia, Bignonia sp. with thick yellow flowers, and another species with small purple flowers and nerved leaves. In the ditches on the roadside we saw Thalia dealbata.

“24th [April 1815}. Resumed our journey today, having given the mules a day’s rest yesterday; passed the Villa de Guarantinguitta at midday, and arrived at a small Rancho, having travelled about six leagues, or twenty-four English miles; collected seeds of several plants that we had previously only found in a flowering state. This day we passed several orange trees laden with fruit, which were a great refreshment to us.

“25th [April 1815}. Left our Rancho at 6 A.M.; passed the Villa Pendamhougaba at 11 o’clock, and arrived at Taubaté at 4 P.M., much fatigued. This day we saw two species of Clitoria, and near a rivulet a beautiful scarlet-flowered diadelphous shrub, probably a Glycine, also a dark purple-flowered Rhexia, and a species of Spathodea? with yellow flowers and a purse-shaped pod, covered with a soft spongy substance. The open Campo, through which we passed, was much covered with ant hills, some of which measured six feet in height. [236]

“26th [April 1815}. At Taubaté, resting the mules in the vicinity of the town, found several species of Rhexia, and a pentandrous blue-flowered plant, allied to Exacum, also a new species of Menyanthes (Villarsia.)

“27th [April 1815}. Left Taubaté at 7 A.M.; and passing over a Campo, arrived at a Rancho, two leagues short of San José, where we put up for the night, having travelled thirty-two English miles this day.

“28th [April 1815}. Arrived on the banks of the river at Jacarahy at 12 o’clock, ferried our luggage over in a canoe, and swam the mules across; this is the broadest and deepest river that we have met with; travelled two leagues further, (eight English miles,) and put up at a surgar-work for the night. We had no sooner taken possession of our new lodging, than we were attacked by that disagreeable insect the Jigger or Chigoe, which penetrated the skin of our feet in order to deposit its eggs.

A footnote in WG McMinn’s book, Allan Cunningham, page 9, says AC thought wrongly that the insect penetrated the skin to lay eggs.

“29th [April 1815}. Left the sugar-work and proceeded to Mogy das Cruces, near seven leagues distant, where we arrived at 7 P.M., much fatigued, the evening turning out rainy; and we found the hills very steep. At the base of one of them we found a species of Amaryllis, allied to A. equestris. It grows in damp shaded situations. The hedges were ornamented with a beautiful climbing Erythrina, with scarlet flowers. This day we passed the largest tree of the Araucaria we have yet seen.

“May 1st [1816]. Rested yesterday, and left Mogy das Cruces this morning at 7 A.M., and arrived in the evening at a small Venda, two and a half leagues from San Paulo. Some part of the road ran through a swamp, in which we collected a species of Pontederia, also a species of Eriocaulon and a Fuchsia, with flowers larger than F. coccinea, petals revolute. It was a tree upwards of thirty feet high.

“2d [May 1816]. Left the Venda at 6 A.M. and arrived at the city of San Paulo at 10.; went in search of lodgings, and procured them at the house of an English Cabinetmaker, through the medium of Colonel Müller [an English Cabinet Maker], to whom we had letters of recommendation, [237] and whose kindness, on this and many other occasions, calls forth our sincerest thanks; but for this gentleman we should have met with innumerable difficulties.

“3d [May 1816]. According to appointment made yesterday with Colonel Müller, we met at 12 o’clock, in order to present ourselves and our letters to the governor, the Conde de Palma, who received us kindly; and having read our letters from the Marquez de Arguia and Lord Strangford, promised to grant us anything we wished for in the furtherance of our botanical pursuits; called also on the Conde de Fonseca, to whom also we had letters. We were received very politely by this nobleman, who offered us his house, saying it would be always open to us.”

Our travellers resided at San Paulo, and its vicinity, above three months, during which period they collected a rich harvest of seeds, plants, and specimens. On the 14th of August, they left San Paulo on their return to Rio, making collections on the road, and at the different places they halted at, and reached Rio once more on the 28th September [1816].

The next year was passed in visiting places in the immediate vicinity, or at a few days’ journey from the city, among which may be mentioned the Corcovado mountains, Tejuco, the Organ Mountains, Somanbaya, Padre Correa, &c. 

From all these places collections of new and interesting plants, seeds, and specimens, were forwarded to England, among which may be mentioned the following as some of the results of their various journeys:

  • Jacaranda mimosaefolia, 
  • Gloxinia speciosa, 
  • Bignonia venusta, 
  • Calathea zebrina, 
  • Amaryllis calyptrata, 
  • Passiflora several sp., 
  • Pothos coriacea, 
  • Melastoma several sp., 
  • Cactus speciosus. C. speciosissimus, C. truncatus, 
  • Dichorisandra thyrsiflora, 
  • Gesneria bulbosa, 
  • Pontederia crassipes, &c., &c.,

That these collections gave great satisfaction, the following extract from a letter of Sir J. Banks, dated February 13th, 1817, will amply testify: –

Both Mr Aiton and myself have been entirely satisfied with you and Mr Bowie’s conduct during your stay at the Brazils. We have [p238] already many valuable collections from thence, sent home by you, which do credit to your expeditions, and honour to the Royal Gardens, especially among the Epidendrums, Tillandsias, &c., such as were sent home in boxes; your bulbs also have produced some splendid flowers.

Sir Joseph Banks 1817

Their journeyings in Brazil now approached a termination. In the month of August, instructions were received from Sir Joseph Banks, directing Mr Bowie to embark for the Cape of Good Hope, and Mr Cunningham for New South Wales; and on the 28th September [1816], the two travellers separated, both leaving the harbour of Rio on the same day for their respective destination; 

Allan Cunningham Arrives in Australia 20th December 1816

the vessel Mr Cunningham took his passage in (the “Surry”, convict ship, Captain Raine), reached Sydney Cove, on the 20th December, after a pleasant voyage of ninety-five days. On the following day Mr Cunningham landed, and proceeded to Parramatta to report himself to the Governor, Major General Macquarie, by whom he was very kindly and hospitably received. 

Shortly after his arrival, he took a cottage at Parramatta, at which place he resided during his stay in Australia, in the intervals of his numerous and varied journeys.

Early in the year 1817, Mr Cunningham was made acquainted with the intentions of the colonial government to send an expedition, under the command of the late surveyor-general Oxley, to explore and trace the course of the Lachlan and Macquarie rivers, and he was advised by the governor to attach himself to an expedition, the results of which were likely to prove most interesting in a botanical point of view; from the circumstance of the parties having to traverse a country at that period entirely unknown.

John Oxley’s Expedition
to trace the course
of the Lachlan River
4th April to 8th September 1817

On the 4th of April [1817], Mr Cunningham left Parramatta in company with Mr Evans, assistant-surgeon, for Bathurst. The roads at that period being in a very indifferent state, their cattle could make but little progress in a day’s march, and a want of bridges occasioned also detentions, so that the party which was overtaken on the road by Mr Oxley, did [239] not reach Bathurst until the 14th. 

In crossing the Blue Mountains, Mr Cunningham saw a pile of stones that bore the name of Caley’s repulse, from the circumstance of its being the farthest point that indefatigable and persevering botanist reached in his endeavours to cross the mountains to the westward. 

After passing Mount York, the character of the country and its botany changed in a remarkable manner, plants that had only previously been found in Van Dieman’s Land, were discovered on the bleak faces of the mountains, and new features of vegetation covered the whole scene; neither Banksia serrata, or Lambertia formosa, were found beyond the mountains, Banksia compar taking the place of the former plant, Daviesia latifolia, and Acacia melanoxylon, (Van Dieman’s Land plants), becoming very common, as also that beautiful shrub Grevillia acanthifolia, and many others then for the first time enriching the vasculum of the fortunate collector. 

The party remained at Bathurst till the 20th, on which day they started for the depot on the Lachlan, from whence they were to commence on untrodden ground. 

“At the depot Cunningham met the Aborigines in their natural environment for the first time. he was immediately touched the simplicity and directness which made them reject the conventional trinkets and ask for gifts of food, and his interest in them was lit by a human warmth rare in early contacts of Europeans with these people whose disconcerting difference could earn from less sympathetic observers” [highly erroneous descriptions]. 

Source: McMinn, Winston Gregory. “Introduction to Exploring.” Allan Cunningham, botanist and explorer. Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 1970. 17. Print. 

On the 25th [April 1817], they arrived at the depot that had been established on the banks of the Lachlan, for the use of the expedition, and where two boats had been built for the conveyance of their provisions on the survey of the river. Here Mr Cunningham met with the late Mr Charles Fraser, so well known for his indefatigable industry in collecting plants and seeds; he was attached to the expedition for the purpose of making collections for Lord Bathurst.

For the details of this interesting but toilsome journey, the reader is referred to Mr Oxley’s work, in which the results of the expedition, the suffering of the party from scarcity of water, and the disappointments they experienced, are given at length. It is merely necessary to mention here that the expedition descended the river, which very soon showed signs of approaching a termination; and on the 12th May [1817], [p240] their further progress on it was stopped by the river losing itself in swamps, which were named the Lachlan swamps, in S. lat 33º 15′, and E. long. 147º 45′. 

Journals of two Expeditions into the Interior of New South Wales, by John Oxley, Surveyor-general of the Territory, and Lieutenant, R.N., 4to, 1820.

Mr Oxley then determined to push forward to the South Coast, so as to strike it about Cape Northumberland. Their boats were consequently hauled up the river’s bank, and such portion of their heavy baggage as could not conveniently be carried with them, was left with the boats; and on the 18th, they started with heavily laden packhorses for their ulterior destination. 

They continued their course, which was nearly S.W., until the 4th of June [1817], when the increased sterility of the country, which they called the Euryalean Scrub, and the almost total absence of that most necessary article, water, added to which, the debilitated state of the cattle from want of food, and the rugged travelling they had undergone, induced Mr Oxley to give up his intentions of reaching the south coast, and to alter his course once more to the northward, with hopes of again coming upon the Lachlan, or the swamps in which they lost that river, and thus obtain a supply of water and forage for their exhausted cattle. 

It was singularly unfortunate that the arid state of the country compelled Mr Oxley at this precise point to make a retrograde movement; for at the most southern point that the expedition reached in S. lat. 34º 15′, they were not more than twenty miles from the then unknown Morumbidgee River, which would to a great extent have relieved their sufferings, supplied their wants, and opened to them a new and interesting field of discovery, that through the above circumstances was reserved for another enterprising traveller, Captain Sturt, whose entertaining volumes* contain so much of interest and information on the interior of this singularly constructed country. 

* Two Expeditions into the Interior of Southern Australia, during the years 1828-31. By Captain C. Sturt, 39th Regiment, 2 vols. 8vo, 1833.

After wearisome travelling, and much suffering both of man and beast for want of water; on the 23d [June 1817], they once more came upon the Lachlan river, diminished to not [p241] more than twenty feet wide, running with a generally western course at the rate of 2½ knots per hour. Down this diminished stream they continued to travel with the daily expectation of a termination to their journey from the shallow state of the river, and the continued flatness of the country. 

At length on the 7th of July [1817], a final stop was put to their further progress westward, by the river, once more losing itself in reedy marshes and interminable creeks; and after burying a bottle containing a paper with a short account of their proceedings up to that date, and their future intended route, they turned their faces again to the eastward, and recommenced the ascent of the Lachlan. The course they now took was north-easterly, keeping as near the river as the swamp nature of its banks and the numerous lagoons would allow. On the 3d of August, they crossed to the northern bank of the Lachlan by means of a raft, their various attempts at throwing a bridge across having failed from the great rapidity of the current carrying off the trees they felled for that purpose. 

They again pushed forward, and were once more fated to be entangled in the same miserable scrubby country that they had formerly named the Euryalean Scrub, and were put to much inconvenience and distress for want of water. A few days’ journey, however, cleared them from this wretched district, and they came upon a country diversified by hill and vale, and what to them was of such great importance, well watered; and at length on the 19th of August [1817], after a journey of 150 miles from the northern bank of the Lachlan, they came upon the Macquarie, in the immediate vicinity of what is now known as Wellington Valley. 

Although their provisions were well nigh exhausted, their apprehensions on the score of famine were dissipated, by finding in the district they were now traversing, large quantities of game, viz., emu, kangaroo, &c., and with the pleasing anticipation of soon arriving at Bathurst, they pushed on with redoubled vigour to reach that station, which they accomplished on the evening of the 29th of August [1817], after an absence of nineteen weeks, the greater portion of which time [p242] was of a most harassing and anxious nature. 

The extent of their journey was about 1200 miles, included within the parallels of 34º 30′, and 32º south latitude, and the meridians of 149º 43′, and 143º 40′ east longitude. The amount of the botanical collections from this expedition, on a rough calculation were about 450 species, principally of the families Leguminosae, Proteaceae, Epacrideae, and Rutaceae. Of Leguminosae Mr Cunningham says, “they vie with all the others in number, in variety, and beauty of their several species.”

Phillip Parker King’s First Australian Coastal Survey
Departing Southward
aboard HMS “Mermaid”
22nd December 1817 to 29th July 1818

On Mr Cunningham’s arrival at Parramatta, he found letters from Sir J. Banks, desiring him to place himself under the direction of Lieutenant P.P. King, R.N., who was appointed to command an expedition for surveying and exploring the north and north-west coast of New Holland. A small vessel of only eighty-five tons burden, the “Mermaid”, had been purchased by the colonial government for the purpose of the survey, and at the latter end of December, she was reported ready for service.

On the 22nd December [1817], the “Mermaid” sailed from Port Jackson*, taking a southerly course to reach her scene of operations. They entered Bass’s Straits on 31st, and on the 21st of January 1818, came to anchor in King George’s Sound. Mr Cunningham landed at Oyster Harbour shortly after this, and from his journal I shall make a short extract of his remarks on the rich botany of this portion of New Holland.

* For the details of Captain King’s voyages, the reader is referred to the very interesting work of that excellent officer, published in 1826, and entitled, “Narrative of a Survey of the Intertropical and Western Coasts of Australia, performed between the years 1818 and 1822. By Captain Phillip P. King, R.N.,” &c., &c., 2 vols. 8vo.

King George Sound, Oyster Harbour
20th January to 1st February 1818

“Aware that our stay here would be but short, I was the more anxious to employ my time as profitably as it was possible. On the barren dry stony hills and ground rising from the beach, Banksia grandis arrests the attention of the collector more particularly than any other of its kindred around [p243] it; it forms a small tree of irregular growth, is very abundant, and at this season in flower and young fruit. Banksia marcescens, B. attenuata, Dryandra armata, and D. nivea, I observed in the exposed sterile spots. Of the Proteaceae, I also gathered specimens of the following well-known genera, Petrophila rigida, and a shrub of stiff habit which I suspect is Mr Brown’s Isopogon attenuatus, Adenanthos cuneata, Lab., a large silky shrub near the shore, also Hakea oleifolia, and H. linearis. In peaty humid situations on the hills, Franklandia fucifolia, Persoonia microcarpa, and Conospermum teretifolium, afforded me some fine specimens, as did Dasypogon bromeliifolius, a suffruticose plant with a globular head of flowers, and rough harsh gramineous foliage. A leguminous plant, perhaps Callistachys lanceolata of Dr Smith, at this period in flower and fruit, decorates the brush on the sands of the immediate beach; Jacksonia spinosa was also in flower. 

“Other specimens that I gathered in this walk were the following, Leptospermum longifolium? a small tree 12-14 feet high, with pendulous branches. On the immediate shores, Hibbertia perfoliata, in humid peaty places near the watering place, Baeckia speciosa, a beautiful delicate plant abundant in a rather damp peaty sand, Epacris (Lysinema, sp.) with large white flowers and attenuated leaves in similar situations; and a sp. of Tremandra, whose purple flowers are particularly conspicuous among grass and herbage near our well. Anigozanthus flavida is of most luxuriant growth in the deeper peaty spots, when the overhanging branches of Banksia attenuata protect if from the more immediate rays of the sun. The stunted timber of the hills are of the Eucalypti, of which I have not seen any flowering specimens. 

“I afterward accompanied Lieutenant King to an island in the harbour (the Garden island of Captain Vancouver); we could discover no traces of any vegetables that might have been produced from the seeds sown by the surgeon and botanist of his vessel, Mr Menzies who made a fine botanical collection at this place. The island in many parts abounds with rats, which might have long since [p244] destroyed every esculent plant thus raised. A Salicornia and a Mesembryanthemum, perhaps M. glaucescens, Haworth, with purple heptagynous flowers, prevailed on its shores as they do in some parts of the mainland. Of the genus Xanthorrhaea, I noticed three or four species but none in flower.” 

Exmouth Gulf, Curlew River, Dampier Archipelago 15th February to 6th March 1818

They continued at King George’s Sound until the 1st of February, on which day the wind enabled them to prosecute their voyage. From the 15th February to the 6th of March [1818], the Mermaid was engaged in the examination of Exmouth Gulf, Curlew River, and the islands of Dampier’s Archipelago, on one of which, Malus Island, Mr Cunningham discovered a third species of that very beautiful genus Clianthus*, (C. Dampieri, A. Cunn.) The plant was also found by Captain King at Curlew River.


*The type of the genus, Clianthus puniceus, Sol. (Donia, Don), was discovered by Sir J. Banks in New Zealand, 1769. A second species C. Oxleyi, A. Cunn., was found near Regent Lake, Lachlan River, New South Wales, in 1817, by Mr Cunningham. A fourth species, C. Baueri, A Cunn., (Streblorrhiza speciosa, End. Clianthus carneus. Lind. ix. Bot. Reg. 1841.) is a native of Phillip Island in the vicinity of Norfolk Island. It was discovered by Ferd. Bauer in 1804, and afterwards found by Cunningham in 1830.

The sterile character, both of the mainland, as well as of the islands, produced but a very indifferent collection to our botanist. The plant from which Dampier called on of these islands “Rosemary Island,” was found very abundant: it is the Eurybia Dampieri, Dec. (Conyza Dampieri, A. Cunn.)

South Goulburn Island to Bathurst Island
27th March to 27th May 1818

The next point the voyagers landed at was the Goulburn Islands, on the north coast; and from this time (the latter end of March), to the end of May, the party were busily employed in their various duties. Mr Cunningham reaped a rich harvest from these luxuriant shores. Among the many interesting plants discovered, may be mentioned some remarkably striking species of Grevillea and Acacia, in addition to a very fine general collection. Shortness of provisions now compelled them to leave the coast of Australia for [p245] the island of Timor. 

Timor, Coepang, Port Jackson
5th June to 29th June 1818

On the 5th of June [1818], they anchored off the Dutch settlement of Coepang, where they received every attention from the resident, Mr Hazaart, and by the 13th having completed such supplies as were necessary, the following day they sailed for Port Jackson, where they arrived on the 29th [July 1818]

Mr Cunningham’s Observations of King’s First Coastal Survey

I shall now make some extracts from Mr Cunningham’s observations on the botanical results of this voyage.

[Bay of Rest]

“While at anchor in a bight called the Bay of Rest, S. lat. 22º 17′, E. long. 114º 20′, I had an opportunity of collecting the few subjects of these barren regions, the shores of which appear doomed to perpetual sterility. I discovered some species of Acacia and Proteaceae, but, the excessive droughts, increased by the rays of the sun at this season, had so burnt up and destroyed the greater portion of its limited vegetation, that but few specimens were added to my collection; the thermometer ranging in different exposures from 105º to 115º.

[Dampier’s Archipelago]

At Dampier’s Archipelago, my collections augmented but very gradually, a sterile sand covered with a Spinifex, being the general character of the coast. I however added 50 species; all, I believe, of known genera.

[The North Coast]

The north coast assumes a much more favourable aspect than that lately abandoned, being in many parts cliffy with craggy shores bounded by mangroves, having elevated forest land in the back ground, where portions of rich soil have been observed, in which I sowed, in various situations, seeds of European fruits and culinary vegetables.

[Goulburn Island]

I landed at different times upon an island named Goulburn’s Island, where I found a new field for botanical investigations, approaching in character that of India; for, among genera peculiar to Australia, such as Grevillea, Pleurandra, &c., several, indigenous in other countries, hold a conspicuous rank and station; among them are Justicia, Strychnos, Dioscorea, Flagellaria, Ficus, Hibiscus, Crotalaria, Grewia, &c. I discovered a new Nymphaea, covering the fresh waters of a lagoon, of the figure and size of N. pygmaea.

[Sim’s Island]

A small island, two miles to the northward of Goulburn’s Island, and which at my suggestion has [246] been named Sim’s Island, (in honour of the excellent conductor of the Botanical Magazine,) afforded me several find specimens, and some papers of seeds. I have likewise found some bulbs of Crinum venosum, Br.? which I have not seen in any other part of Australia. The opportunities of landing on the north coast, and the islands in the vicinity, have enabled me to add to my collections materially, although not to the extent I had reasonably calculated. The aggregate sum of my collections made on the coasts of Australia, does not exceed 300 species.”

Illawarra District
19th October to 19th November 1818

Shortly after the period of Mr Cunningham’s return, he undertook a journey to the Illawarra, or Five Island District; a portion of Australia remarkable for the almost tropical character and luxuriance of its vegetation; and during his stay, (about a month,) he made a very rich collection both of specimens and seeds. For the results I again refer to his journal.

“I returned from a late excursion to the country southerly, with a collection of interesting plants and some seeds found during my stay there, in the diversified country in that vicinity, particularly under the mountain-belt bounding the fine cattle-runs to the westward, whose shaded damp woods afforded me a considerable scope for botanical investigation, although I was in several instances, too early in the season for expanded flowering specimens. 

“I was nevertheless fortunate in the detection of many fine plants, either in fruit or in a partially flowering condition, that I have never examined before. They are, however, for the most part, plants known to that eminent botanist, Mr Brown, a circumstance that tempts me to conclude the vegetable productions of those shaded close forests, full of volubilous and scandent species, to be of the same description as those of the Cedar woods of the Coal River, (Hunter’s River,) whence that gentleman, in 1804, could have alone obtained those plants he has described, and which I have again detected two degrees to the southward of it, viz., at the Red Point of the charts, a district wholly unknown to any botanist at that period [p247] of time. 

Among the plants to which I allude, the following are remarkable: – 

  • Cargillia australis, 
  • Achras sp., 
  • Cryptocarya and 
  • Tetranthera, genera of Laurineae, 
  • a Podocarpus, in habit like Taxus elongatus, 
  • Marsdenia rostrata, and 
  • Tylophora sp.,
  • a singular cork-barked tree, Duboisia?, 
  • a Palm, which I suspect is the tropical Seaforthia, and 
  • many others, not clearly ascertained.”

King’s Voyage From Port Jackson
to Tasmania and return
aboard HMS “Mermaid”
25th December 1818 to 14th February 1819

Captain King, having determined to survey Macquarie Harbour, on the west coast of Van Diemen’s Land, gave Mr Cunningham an opportunity of visiting that portion of Australia. They arrived at Hobart Town on the 2d of January, 1819, and while there, Mr Cunningham ascended Mount Table, since known as Mount Wellington, from whose sides and summit he made a rich increase to his collections.

On the 10th [January 1819] they sailed for Macquarie Harbour, where they remained until the 25th, during which period Mr Cunningham made daily excursions in the immediate vicinity of the harbour, and procured a rich collection of its botanical stores. They returned to Sydney Cove on the 14th of February. 

Mount Wellington 7th January 1819

Of the botany of Mount Wellington, Mr Cunningham observes – 

“I made a very interesting excursion to the summit of Mount Table, which presented me with a fair specimen of Alpine travelling, in the sudden transitions of the weather, (being alternately fair, with snow storms,) and with the character of the botany, as may be found in Terra Australis collectively. In this elevated journey I gathered many curious plants, which, although I now find them described by that truly eminent botanist, Mr Brown, were no less interesting to me, who knew nothing of them previously.”

Macquarie Harbour 12th January 1819

Of Macquarie Harbour, he says –

“In no situation did I find the botany so novel and otherwise interesting as on the low shores of a little bight, about nine miles up from the entrance, called Pine Cove, from the abundance of the Huon and Adventure Bay Pines, which its humid shaded woods afford. With the Huon Pine, (which may be a Dacrydium, or altogether a new genus,) and that named Adventure Bay Pine [p248] (Podocarpus aspleniifolius, Lab.) I detected the

  • Anopterus of Labillardiere in flower;
  • the Cenarrhenes of that author in fruit;
  • the beautiful Carpodontos;
  • the Sassafras scented Atherosperma;
  • the aromatic Tasmannia in fruit;
  • the native Birch*; a species of Weinmannia**;
  • some of the Epacrideae,
  • Elaeocarpus pedunculatus;
  • Gaultheria hispida in fruit,
  • with several others of like sterling importance.

After a minute examination of all the trees of Huon Pine that had been recently fallen, I was fortunate in the detection of the young fruit of that most useful tree.”

*Fagus Cunninghamii, Hook. Journ. Of Bot. Vol ii. p. 150. t. vii.
** Weinmannia biglandulosa. MSS. Hook. Icon. Plant. t. ccci.

King’s Second Australian Coastal Survey
Circumnavigation North From Port Jackson
aboard HMS “Mermaid”
8th May 1819 to 12th January 1820

Port Macquarie, Hastings River
11th May to 21st May 1819

Early in the month of May, the “Mermaid” was declared ready for sea, and Mr Cunningham prepared to embark on board her for a second voyage to the north and north west coasts. On the 8th, Captain King sailed from Port Jackson. Port Macquarie on the east coast was the first place they put in at; and of the vegetation of this port Mr Cunningham says –

“We are not far enough to the northward yet, to observe any decided change in the character of the botany here, as differing from that of Port Jackson. Three-fourths of the plants I had noticed in November last, at the Five Islands, (Illawarra,) to the southward of Port Jackson, and originally discovered by Mr Brown, (probably at Hunter’s River,) exist in the most thick woods, investing in patches in the immediate shores of the Port. 

“I now view my old friends in another state, and among them some nondescripts, inhabiting the dense forest on the banks of the Hastings, of whom a new Palm, (seldom above twelve feet in height,) and a species of Pothos, adhering to trees, not enumerated among Mr Brown’s genera of Aroideae, are perhaps most remarkable. In the hollows are dark thick woods, bound together with twining and climbing plants of extraordinary size, where several kinds of Laurineae and Meliaceae, of small diameter, as timbers, are to be met with, which, nevertheless, I doubt not will be found useful for building, and ornamental for household furniture. [249] The dark forest on the river abound with the Red Cedar and Rosewood of large dimensions.”

Rodds Bay to Rockingham Bay
29th May to 21st June 1819

On the 21st, they sailed from Port Macquarie to the northward. On the 30th, Captain King anchored in Rodd’s Bay, on the shores of which Mr Cunningham detected many plants that he had observed on the north coast in the last voyage; but which had been originally detected in the Gulf of Carpentaria and elsewhere, by Mr Brown. On the 3d of June [1819], the “Mermaid” anchored under one of the Percy Isles. At Cleveland Bay, where they arrived on the 14th [June 1819], Mr Cunningham made some further collections, and goes on to mention that – 

“On Palm Island, in Halifax Bay, and more particularly on the islands in Rockingham Bay, I noticed plants common to both Indies, viz., Sophora tomentosa, Guilandina Bonduc, &c., and a beautiful purple-flowering Melastoma, (M. Banksii,) a genus that I was not aware existed in Terra Australis.” 

Endeavour River
29th June to 12th July 1819

On the 27th, after an intricate and somewhat perilous navigation among the innumerable reefs that line the eastern coast of New Holland, they reached Endeavour River; anchoring, in all probability, on the same spot where Captain Cook and Sir Joseph Banks had done so, forty-nine years ago. Of Endeavour River, Mr Cunningham observes – 

“Our protracted detention, till the 12th of July, at this memorable part of the eastern coast of New Holland, was occasioned by a temporary loss we had previously suffered off the cloud capt mountainous land of Cape Tribulation, by the swamping of one of our most serviceable whaleboats, which we replaced by building another from the frame of a spare boat we had on board. Thus the convenient south shore of Endeavour River, which most probably has never been visited since the departure of Captain Cook, in 1770, has been a second time converted into a temporary dockyard. 

“Here was a period of fourteen days that might have been wholly at my disposal, had it not been for the annoyances experienced from the prowling natives, who made a rather determined, but unsuccessful attack, upon the boat-builders, &c., on shore, whilst I was at some distance from [250] the cutter, on an excursion to the more elevated ranges of hills bounding the grassy and flat lands southerly. 

“In my various daily walks in pursuit of Flora, which occupied my time during the first week of my stay there, much pleasure was derived in tracing the steps of Sir Joseph Banks and his learned colleague Dr Solander, and detecting many plants then discovered, that in all probability have never been seen in a living state since that period. Among them were Grevillea gibbosa, a flower and fruit, prevalent on the rocky hills; a beautiful bluish-flowering Nymphaea, like N. versicolor, Rox., expanding itself on the surface of the chains of stagnant pools in the lower lands, and the ornamental Melastoma banksii, clothing the muddy shaded banks of these small ponds. 

“The rocky gullies, trickling with small runs of water, afforded me scope for much minute research; for there, more particularly, the delicate filiform minute Stylidia, some small Eriocaula and Xyrides, appeared to abound, with some Gentianae, delighting in a humid shallow soil. Among the plants observed on a strip of sandy desert, under the range of hills to the southward of our anchorage, I was successful in collecting a number of bulbs, (Crinum angustifolium,) which could be but barely traced by the existence of slight vestiges of their decayed foliage lying on the surface of the sand. 

“The summits of the ridges, and more especially the northern sandy shore, added some interesting plants to my augmenting collections. On the arid wastes of the latter, I gathered a most beautiful plant of Dilleniaceae, Hemistemma Banksii, R. Br. It was a subject of much regret to me, that, in consequence of the rupture with the natives, my walks, during the last week of our stay at Endeavour River, were either very much circumscribed or wholly prevented. 

“I had determined upon an excursion for a couple of days, at least, to the more distant and loftier hills, whose woods, densely matted to their very summits, would doubtless have afforded me some considerable scope for plodding botanical research. This plan, however, with some minor excursions, was wholly frustrated by the decidedly hostile dispositions of the natives; [p251] and the smallness of our company, not allowing me two or three armed men as a guard, forbade my prosecuting my pursuits in distant walks.”

Liverpool River to Port Warrender
4th August to 13th October 1819

On the 12th of July, the party left Endeavour River, and doubled Cape York on the 24th; and after failing to find an anchorage among the islands in Torres Straits, they stood across the Gulf of Carpentaria. The first place at which they landed on the north coast was, on the banks of a river called by Captain King, Liverpool River. On the 8th of August, they anchored at the last year’s anchorage, at Goulburn Islands, where Captain King remained ten days to complete the supply of wood and water. Mr Cunningham was unable to make a second collection this year, from the continued hostility of the natives, and also from a severe attack of jaundice, brought on by the fatiguing examination of Liverpool River.

On the 27th, they reached Vernon’s Island in Clarence Strait, which was the termination of their last year’s survey. Among the more remarkable places touched at on this voyage on the north-west coast, many may be mentioned, – Port Keats, Lacrosse Island, Cambridge Gulf, where they remained ten days, the peculiar botany of its shores greatly enriched Mr Cunningham’s collection, – Vansittart Bay and Port Warrender. The general arid character of the coast on this part of New Holland, although it did not afford species of remarkable beauty, yet a large portion of them are highly interesting to the botanist, from the singularity of their forms, and their affinity in many instances, with plants natives of the continent of India. One singularity of the vegetation of this portion of the coast is, the paucity of the family of Proteaceae, so abundant to the southward.

Timor 16th October 1819, then onward
to Port Jackson 12th January 1820

On the 16th October [1819], they sailed once more, with the intention of again visiting Timor, which island, after some delays from the wind and current being against them, they reached on the 1st of November. They completed their necessary supplies by the 9th, on which day they sailed for Port Jackson, [p252] where they arrived on the 12th January, 1820, after an absence of thirty-five weeks and four days.

Of Timor and its capabilities of supplying passing vessels, Mr Cunningham remarks –

“The experience of the last year at this settlement having taught us, that many of the lesser comforts, now required for our cabin mess, were only to be obtained by executing the several purchases ourselves at certain periods of the day, in the streets, or in the Chinese shops, rather than trust to the specious kind offices of attention from any agent resident onshore. I landed early this morning (November 2d), to make the best market an individual could, who was a stranger to the established Malayan dialect. Having purchased some fruits, vegetables, &c., for our immediate consumption, I returned on board.

“The Tamarind trees, that form such a salubrious and agreeable shade in the streets of Coepang, are laden with ripe fruit, which I observed was exposed for sale in large quantities, without any other preparation than that of having the external brittle leguminous investment taken off, and then being dried in the sun; after which, the fruits are either made up in small balls, or loosely spread out in baskets. Besides Limes, Citrons, the Jack-fruit (Artocarpus integrifolia), although at this period in season, was sparingly exhibited for sale, and consequently dear. The young fruit of a palm, which I suspect to be Borassus flabelliformis, is sold in the market for the sake of the semitransparent soft albumen of the very young seeds, which, although insipid, is eaten by the Malays.

“I landed again at an early hour this morning, (3d,) for the purpose of employing myself on the hills in the vicinity of Coepang, during the whole of the day. Bombax Ceiba and Jatropha Curcas, the latter apparently planted, in some situations, in lines to strengthen the hedge-rows (principally formed of Zizyphus Jujube), bore their ripe fruits, and among the old-described plants, observed so abundantly last year, some few others now presented their fructification, that had been without flower or fruit at the period of our former visit to this settlement. [p253] Among these were :

  • Thunbergia fragrans, 
  • Sanseviera, 
  • Zeylanica, 
  • Grislea tomentosa, which afforded me ripe seeds, 
  • Amyris, sp., (aculeata,)
  • Cordia, sp. (monoica?), a shrub bearing white flowers, and also in fruit, 
  • Caesalpinea (alata), allied to C. Sappan, 
  • Cathartocarpus Fistula, and C. javanicus, were particularly ornamental, bearing racemes of flowers with fruit, the former of the prevailing yellow colour, common to Cassia; while the latter were of a pale-purple tint in long pendulous clusters. 
  • A shrub, with the habit of Phyllanthus (Fluggia? Willd.,) gathered last year, again yielded a few ripe seeds.
  • Tabernaemontana coronaria, 
  • Helicteres Isora, 
  • Gaertnera racemosa, 
  • Jasminum hirsutum, 
  • Calotropis gigantea, (a plant of Asclepiadieae, having corrosive acrid juices,) are frequent on the rocky hills near the town. 

Upon low lands, that had been formerly Paddy grounds, and subjected to irrigation, I observed sparingly Torenia asiatica, some minute Justiciae, and a dead Jussieua. After gathering some duplicate seeds of the last year, I returned to Coepang by a circuitous route of eight miles.”

Expedition to the Blue Mountains March 1820
with Leut. Lawson, and the Russians,
Fedor Shtein and Emel’yan Korneyev

“In March 1820, a Russian naturalist with the Bellingshausen expedition, F. Stein [Fedor Shtein], claimed to have sighted gold-bearing ore while he was on a 12-day trip to the Blue Mountains. But many people, including the botanist Allan Cunningham, were sceptical of his claim.”

Source : Patricia Clarke
“Mrs Macquarie’s Earrings”
National Library of Australia Website

In the month of March [1820], two Russian vessels arrived at Sydney [the “Otkrytiye” and “Blagonamerennyi”] the naturalist, M Stein [Fedor Shtein] and painter, M Karneyeck [Emel’yan Korneyev], attached to the expedition, having obtained permission to cross the Blue Mountains, Mr Cunningham proffered his services to accompany them on their tour. 

They were absent ten days, and returned on board their ships, much gratified with their excursion, and with the attention they had received from Lieutenant [William] Lawson [Commander of the Bathurst settlement at the time and famous for being one of the three men credited with crossing the Blue Mountains for the first time in 1813] and Mr Cunningham, who accompanied, and pointed out to them the various remarkable features of that portion of the country which their limited time enabled them to investigate.