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

Transcribed from the original text
and edited by Diane Challenor 

Part 3
August 1822 to December 1825

This extract begins at page 276 of
The Journal of Botany Volume IV 1842


The Illawarra August 1822

In the month of August, Mr Cunningham made a second excursion to Illawarra, for the purpose of collecting living plants of interesting species that he had observed on his previous visit; these, with some seeds in addition to his collections on his fourth voyage, were forwarded to England at the close of the year.

Expedition to the Cudgegong River
27th September 1822 to 4th January 1823

Across the Blue Mountains to Bathurst
via Prince Regent’s Glen, Glenroy and the Fish River

Mr Cunningham having made application to the new governor, Sir T. Brisbane, for more efficient means to enable him to make excursions to the westward of the colony, a cart and horses with government servants were allowed him for this especial purpose; and towards the end of the month of September, he started on an expedition over the Blue mountains, with a light cart, two horses, and two government servants. He proceeded leisurely on his journey, encamping at those places that appeared most favourable for his botanical pursuits, particularly the Prince Regent’s Glen, and the banks of Cox’s River [Glenroy], and the Fish River; he arrived at Bathurst on the 14th October, and found that place much improved and enlarged since his visit in August 1817, when returning from the expedition to the Lachlan. The woody glens that conduct numerous rivulets to the Macquarie afforded him a rich harvest; the country to the north, as far as the government lime-kiln and the Wombat ranges, were also visited.

On the 18th November [1822], [p277] Mr Cunningham, having obtained an additional convict servant from the commandant at Bathurst, set off on an expedition to the northward, with the intention of travelling some distance down the Cugeegong River; but at an early stage of his journey, one of his packhorses having broken from its tether-rope in the night, being alarmed by the fall of a large tree in the adjoining forest which was on fire, he was precluded going to that extent he had originally intended, and much time was expended in searching for the lost animal, for his remaining horse could not convey the necessary provisions and baggage of the party. 

Mount Stirling, Earin’s Head, Table Bucco Flat

The time however was not wholly lost; for our botanist made excursions in the vicinity of his encampment, that possibly repaid him as well as if he had been enabled to reach the farthest point of his projected journey. He visited Mount Stirling, Earin’s Head, Table Bucco Flat, and places at a short distance from his encampment, most of which afforded him an interesting addition to his previous collections.

The botanical acquisitions of his journey are detailed at length in a paper, entitle, A specimen of the Indigenous Botany of the mountainous country between the colony round Port Jackson, and the settlement of Bathurst, being a portion of the result of Observations made in the months of October, November, and December, 1822; disposed according to the Natural Orders, by Mr Allan Cunningham, Botanical Collector for his Majesty’s Gardens at Kew.* 

*Geographical Memoirs on New South Wales, by various hands. Edited by Barron Field, Esq., FLS., &c., &c., 8vo. 1825, p. 323

Parramatta 4th January 1823

The party returned to Parramatta, on the 4th of January, 1823. 

Mr Cunningham now contemplated a much more extended journey: the observations made in his late tour afforded him considerable hopes of penetrating from Bathurst, northerly, towards the then but little known Liverpool plains, and of opening a communication with that district, which would be the means of giving to the rapid tide of emigrants that were now flocking to New South Wales, a new and untrodden [p278] country for them to exert their agricultural abilities upon.

Pandora’s Pass 1823

On communicating with the governor, Sir T. Brisbane, relative to his projected journey, he was most warmly met and cordially assisted in the furtherance of his purpose. Sir T. Brisbane, who had a short time previously visited Bathurst and its immediate neighbourhood, instantly saw the great advantage that would result to the colony, if easy access could be attained to the vast plains discovered by Mr Oxley on his return from his unsuccessful descent of the Macquarie in 1818; and consequently gave orders for the equipment of the new exploratory expedition to the full extent of Mr Cunningham’s requisition.

Parramatta to Bathurst 31st March 1823

On the 31st March, the party, which consisted of Mr Cunningham and five men, and five heavily laden packhorses with provisions for ten weeks left Parramatta for Bathurst, where they arrived on the 5th of April, and on the 15th, they took their departure from that station for the ultimate object of their journey. 

Southern Boundary of the Liverpool plains to Goulburn River 1823

The finding a practicable passage through the mountains that form the southern boundary of Liverpool plains proved a most toilsome and laborious experiment; for, after a journey of a fortnight along the southern face of theses mountains, on an easterly course, without any appearance of an available opening in them, Mr Cunningham returned to the westward, on a more southerly course, and struck his previous encampment on the Goulburn River again, on the 31st of May. 

Pandora’s Pass is found 5th June 1823

Although his horses were considerably reduced in strength, and his provisions were running short, by reducing the rations which gave him a little more time, he determined on pushing forward north-westerly for a short period; and at length, on the 5th June, he was rewarded for his toils and anxieties by the discovery of a practicable opening in the mountains, that afforded him the means of descending to the long-sought Liverpool plains, and which he most appropriately called Pandora’s Pass, from the hope it gave him of its ultimately becoming the great route of communication between the settlers at Bathurst and on Hunter’s River, and the future inhabitants of Liverpool plains. The latitude of [p279] his tent in the valley immediately below the pass, was 31º 43′ 45″ S., and longitude by estimation 149º 30′ E. 

Under a tree in the valley was deposited a memorandum written on parchment, and enclosed in a bottle: the following is a copy of the document.

MEMORANDUM: After a very laborious and harassing journey from Bathurst, since April last, a party consisting of five persons, under the direction of Allan Cunningham, H.M. Botanist (making the sixth individual), having failed of finding a route to the Liverpool plains, whilst tracing the south base of the barrier mountains (before us north), so far as fifty miles to the eastward of this spot, at length upon prosecuting their research under this great mountain-belt in a westerly direction, reached this valley, and discovered a practicable and easy passage through a low part of the mountain-belt, north by west from this tree, to the very extensive levels connected with the above-mentioned plains, of which the southernmost of the chain is distant about eleven or twelve miles (by estimation), N.N.W., from this valley, and to which a line of trees has been carefully marked; thus opening an unlimited, unbounded, seemingly well-watered country N.N.W., to call forth the exertions of the industrious agriculturist and grazier, for whose benefit the present labours of the party have been extended.

This valley, which extends to the S.W. and W.S.W., has been named ‘Hawksbury Vale,’ and the high point of the range, bearing N.W. by W. from this tree, was called ‘Mount Jenkinson;’ the one a former title, and the other the family name of the noble earl whose present title the plains bear, to which from the southern country this gap affords the only passage likely to be discovered. The party in the earlier and middle stages of their expedition encountered many privations and local difficulties, of travelling to, and in the return from, the eastward; in spite however of these little evils, ‘a Hope at the bottom,’ or at this almost close of the journey, an encouragement induced them to persevere westerly a limited distance, and [p280] thus it was this passage was discovered. – It has therefore been named ‘Pandora’s Pass’. 

“Due east and west by compass from this tree, in a direct line of 336 yards (by odometrical admeasurement), were planted the fresh stones of peaches brought from the colony in April last, with every good hope that their produce will one day or other afford some refreshment to the weary farmer, whilst on his route beyond the bourne of the desirable country north of Pandora’s Pass: a like planting took place on the plains, twelve miles distance north at the last marked trees, with similar good wishes for their growth. 

A remarkably high mount above the pass east, being a guide to the traveller advancing south from the plains, has been named ‘Direction Head.’ – 

The situation of this tree is as follows: lat. observed on the 7th and 8th June, 1823, 32º 15′ 19″ S. ; its longitude being presumed about 149º 30′ E. The party now proceed with the utmost dispatch south for Bathurst.

Allan Cunningham

June 9th, 1823

Allan cunningham 9th June 1823

“Buried for the information of the first farmer who may venture to advance so far to the northward as this vale, of whom it is requested this document may not be destroyed, but carried to the settlement of Bathurst after opening the bottle.”

Bathurst 27th June 1823

Mr Cunningham, having thus attained the primary object of his journey,* commenced his return southerly, and reached Bathurst on the evening of the 27th June, where he remained till the 14th of July, for the purpose of resting his men and horses, and also on account of the impracticable state of the roads from the heavy rains that had lately fallen. 

*See Field’s Geographical Memoirs of New South Wales, p. 131, for the details of this interesting journey.

Parramatta 21st July 1823

On the 21st, he returned to Parramatta. Although the geographical results of this journey were so valuable to the [p281] colonial government, the botanical portion of it was not so much to our collector, on account of his traversing principally luxuriant pastures, which afforded him but a few plants interesting in a botanical point of view: on this subject Mr Cunningham remarks –

“Truly important as these researches of country will prove to the many British farmers who are periodically emigrating to our distant shores, the land through which I had recently penetrated has been generally so uniform in appearance – for where any deviation to barren brushy tracts existed, they presented little or no novelty to the botanical traveller – that only a small collection of dried plants have been made, the indigenous vegetation being identically of the same characters generally as that seen and collected last summer. I have, however, gathered a few papers of desirable seeds not previously found.”

Bell’s Road in the Blue Mountains November 1823

A new, and as it was anticipated, a more practicable route [Bells Line of Road], having been discovered over the Blue Mountains to the northward of the existing road, Mr Cunningham determined to investigate its locality, deeming it very likely to afford him some botanical rarities. At the latter end of November, he proceeded with two men and a couple of packhorses, to investigate this newly discovered pass, and from his journals I shall make occasional extracts of his proceedings:-

“November 26th. About 7am., I commenced my journey from Mr Bell’s [Archibald Bell] farm, having passed an irregular tract of rising forest-land by a well-beaten road to a watermill, distant about four and a half miles north-westerly from Hawkesbury river, the marked trees of the surveyor (who had been sent to examine and report upon the line of route,) led us over a ridge of wooded hills to a rocky gully, which having crossed, we immediately gained a main range, bounded on either side of deep ravines. 

“This range, which ascends in a westerly direction, is clothed with those species of Eucalyptus, called the Blue Gum and Iron bark of large dimensions, Melaleuca styphelioides, thirty feet high, seen also at Springwood last year – Elaeodendron australe, Cargillea australis, a species of Atherosperma, [p282] called by the colonists Sassafras, with several shrubs of the colony, frequent in situations similarly situated. The brushes, with which the range (whose ascent was very moderate,) is exceedingly encumbered, is rendered scarcely passable by packhorses in many parts, by reason of the numerous twining plants with which they are matted together, of whom Bignonia australis, Cissus antarctica, and Smilax australis, were the more remarkable. 

“As we ascended (very leisurely of necessity), we remarked several parts of this main range to be very narrow, not exceeding sixteen to twenty yards in breadth, and only in a few patches where these viney thickets cease and the forest is less encumbered with underwood, was there any grass; in general, however, the surface is covered with ferns, and although we discovered a little water in a neighbouring gully convenient to our line of route, the necessary element to the traveller is not to be found generally, excepting in the depths of the deep ravines; Schelhammera sp., and Renealmia paniculata, Br. were observed in the more shaded parts of the ascent. We halted about 4 P.M. at the water we have found, having made an advance of about six miles from Mr Bell’s farm.

“27th. About 7am. We resumed our journey westerly on the line of marked trees, which led us through a continuation of close brushy forest, abounding with much underwood of common colonial plants, the more rare being Aster dentatus of strong shrubby growth, Hibbertia saligna, and Lissanthe sapida. In about a mile and a half we ascended a round rising open patch of ground covered with Lomaria procera, Pteris umbrosa, P. falcata, and Doodia aspera, the timber being chiefly Tristania albicans, the Turpentine tree of the colonists. Immediately again the thick brushy forest bound this open, less encumbered part, and as we penetrated through it I observed some very fine specimens of Alsophila australis, a tree-fern fifteen to twenty feet high, Tetranthera dealbata, and a tree of Urticae, bearing globular compound fruit, inserted with a persistent calyx. 

Bell’s View November 1823

“At length in about another half mile, the range has an abrupt rocky termination to the westward, [p283] which is clothed with a sandstone scrub of plants, observed generally in similar sterile situations in the colony. From this eminence, which has been named Bell’s View, an extensive landscape of country is presented to the traveller, in a sweep of the compass from about south by the way of west to north. 

Cudgegong River, Plain of Daby November 1823

“At S.S.W. And S.W., a considerable extent of moderately broken country is seen in a series of ranges beyond the old mountain-road to Bathurst, uninteresting in the picture on account of its tameness. Upon looking over a tract, broken by sharp well-wooded ravines, and irregular rocky ridges about thirty miles, I observed with pleasure an open undulated country from N.W. to N.N.W., whose feature I instantly recognised as of the same description of landscape which I had so much contemplated when on the Cugeegong river last year, and during my late tour, – this north-western tract being situated to the eastward of the Plain of Daby on that stream. 

“The western face of this termination of the range being found too steep and precipitous to attempt its descent, the surveyor’s marked trees led us along the slope of a sharp rocky ravine trending to the S.W., and thence we descended with considerable risk to our packhorses, about a quarter of a mile through much harsh scrubby brush. 

“Our marked route westerly conducted us through a brushy and scrubby country, that might be considered nearly level – so exceedingly slight are the ascents and descents – in this stage of our journey the brush commences exceedingly dense, twelve feet and upwards in height, and composed chiefly of Pultenaea linophylla, P. scabra, Daviesia ulicina and Bursaria spinosa, or perhaps a distinct species, formerly gathered on the Hasting’s river at Port Macquarie. 

“In several parts we found the route scarcely pervious to packhorses without the active application of our tomahawks. Having penetrated about four miles west from Bell’s View, through a continuation of the brush, grass appearing tolerably plentiful, induced me to encamp on the rocky verge of a ravine, where abundance of water was found.

“28th. About 6 A.M., we quitted the spot on which we had [p284] encamped, pursuing the western route along the line of marked trees through a small portion of scrub which brought us to another Pultenaeabrush, as lofty and compact as those we passed yesterday, a space upwards of a mile and a half being occupied by it. 

“Occasionally the timber is stately and of regular growth, and consists of Blue gum, Stringy bark, and Turpentine trees; and in these situations where the thicket or underwood was more open and less difficult to penetrate, some patches of grass are to be met with, where cattle can feed; but no water was observed to cross the marked track, being only to be sought successfully in the neighbouring gullies. 

“The country continues very level, through which a, good road could be formed with the labour simply of cutting down and eradicating the underwood and thickets, the timber being generally at such distances as not to require felling. At the 14th mile-tree a dry scrub succeeds the brushwood of the forest, where Banksia serrata of large size, Lomatia silaifolia, Isopogon anemonifolius, Telopea speciosa, Lambertia formosa and several other plants of Parramatta and its vicinity were flourishing in their usual soil of decomposed sandstone. 

“Another mile brought us into forest brushes formed of Indigofera australis, Bursaria sp., Daviesia ulicina, Acacia longifolia bound together by Smilax australis, Cissus sp., Cassytha paniculata and Clematis coriacea, constituting so compact a thicket as scarcely to be passed by packhorses without great labour, and by many circuitous digressions from the surveyor’s route. This brushy forest continues more or less difficult to the nineteenth mile, when having passed a stony scrub, we arrived at a range of broken country observed from Bell’s View. 

Mount Tomah November 1823

Tracing the marked route, we ascended the side of the mountain through much fallen timber, large rocks concealed by luxuriant ferns, and much brush – we with great exertion to our packhorses gained the summit, when having passed just within the verge of the dark lofty forests which clothe its highest parts, we encamped on the spot where the Surveyor’s party had rested, finding water of a tolerable quality in a neighbouring gully. 

“The summit [p285] of this mountain is named by the aborigines, Tomah, and is distant from the Hawkesbury ford at Richmond, twenty miles. Upon entering the forest, the traveller is struck with the change of appearance of the timbers from the Eucalypti of the open country, the stupendous size and extraordinary windings of the climbers, particularly a Cissus, and with the magnificence of the tree-ferns, Dicksonia antartica, some of which were thirty feet in height, and six to fourteen inches in diameter. In truth all that striking change to tropical scenery meets the eye, which appears so remarkable at the ” mountain top”, above the Five Islands (Illawarra.) Amidst a diversity of plants, and great variety of cryptogamous botany, we had to regret there was no grass for our exhausted pack- horses; however, among the ferns which everywhere covered the surface of the ground, a species of Senecio was sparingly scattered, upon whose heads they were observed to browse.

“29th. It was my intention to have spent a whole day at this encampment, in order to examine the summit of Tomah – the consideration, however, that it afforded my horses no grass, determined me to proceed forward early in the afternoon, some four or five miles to the westward, where we had been informed some little pasture existed.

“The timbers of the forest, as far as I could ascertain them, were two lofty species of Eucalyptus, one called White Gum, Ceratopetalum apetalum ? (I have not the fruit,) Achras australis, Tristania albicans, Olea paniculata, Elaeodendron australe and by far the more general tree, growing 60-70 feet in height, is a species of Atherosperma (Sassafras.)

“Twining and climbing plants of vast strength and magnitude hang from the heads of the loftiest trees, and bore upon their pliant stems abundance of climbing Polypodia, and tufts of a Dendrobium, allied to D. rigidum. Another plant of this beautiful family, rarely to be met with in the colony, I observed in flower sparingly – it was Sarcochilus falcatus, of which I also gathered a few living specimens. Hanging in attenuated clusters from the highest branches of the trees, I detected a third species of this family, and probably a Dendrobium, not apparently noticed by Mr Brown. [p286]

“lts leaves are from eight and twelve inches long, perfectly cylindrical and attenuated at each extremity – these were inserted upon long slender almost filiform stems, the whole being supported by strong thick roots which adhere firmly to the branches of the trees, from whence these plants swing in the breeze perfectly unencumbered and clear of the stems. A climbing rooting-stemmed plant adhering to the trunks of the tree-ferns is very general in these shaded woods, where it covers also fallen timber. I was fortunate in detecting it in fruit and flower; it belongs to that division of Bignoniaceae, of Jussieu, producing baccate fruit.* 

* Fieldia australis, A. Cunn. Field’s New South Wales, p 363, t.2, fig, 4. Hook. Ex, Fl. t, 232 .

The Filices are numerous and curious, I saw none, however, other than those species of which I had gathered specimens in 1818, at the Five Islands. The soil of these shades is a fat argillaceous loam, blended with much decomposed vegetable matter.

In this earth I remarked partially buried large blocks of a compact whinstone in no regular form; and in the banks of the water-gullies, I traced abundance of slate in apparently horizontal laminae. Fresh water percolates through the soil into these gullies everywhere, and although impregnated with iron, was of a good quality for our general purposes. 

“About 1 P.M., we continued our route along the line of marked trees, which led us by a winding course through the darkest parts of the forest, over the mountain to its north-western declivity, about a mile and a half beyond the encamping spot we had left. Lofty densely timbered mountainous ranges now appeared before us peering over each other, lying in no regular series of order, but assuming an aspect so formidable by their perpendicular faces overhanging deep ravines, as to seem to defy all further attempt to penetrate westerly. 

“However, we traced our way by the line of trees down the declivity, which every step became more and more dangerous, by reason of the loose fragments of sandstone and shelving rocks, which were thickly strewed on the surface. In spite [p287] of every care of my people, the heaviest laden packhorse in attempting to jump down a perpendicular fall over a rock of three feet in depth, lost his balance, and was in an instant off his legs, on the edge of a sharp brushy declivity, down which he rolled over five times before one of the saddle bags stopped his frightful, hurried descent.

“Every assistance was promptly afforded him and, on being disburdened of his load, he got upon his legs evidently much shaken in the loins, but no bones fractured. The dangers of a loosely stoned track along a sharp decline of the mountains, very frequently obstructed by large trunks of fallen timber, appeared to be so considerable, as scarcely to warrant our further prosecution of the journey to Cox’s River, with packhorses so heavily laden as mine were. 

“Unwilling, however, to halt and suffer myself to be discouraged by a single accident, we continued along the slope of the mountain another half-mile, when both my wearied beasts having repeatedly fallen under their loads, and the path (if it might be so called,) becoming much more rough and dangerous by shelving rocks and fallen timber, I was obliged to halt in a rugged stony scrub on the sharp side of the mountain, it being dusk, and heavy rain had already set in for the night. 

“Thus situated, we pitched our tent on the declivity, gave our poor beasts a little corn which we had cautiously brought with us, and frugally issued, and then secured them to trees around our fire for the night, without a blade of grass or herb to eat, the recent fires of the surveying party having passed through the brush, and destroyed every kind of vegetation. 

“30th. The wind continuing from the southward and eastward, we had rain throughout the day. Some young rushes being found by one of my people on a patch of bog about half a mile westerly round the mountain, I caused the horses to be shifted to, and tethered upon it; it however benefited them nothing, since they partook but little of it. 

Return to Mount Tomah eighteen miles from
the Cox’s River December 1823

“Dec. 1. The route onward westerly proving on examination much more rugged and dangerous than the paths we have passed, and as both my horses are now reduced to that [p288] state of debility as by no means to justify me in persevering further, particularly as the line of country before me (18 miles to Cox’s River), has been reported by the surveyor to be of arid brushes on a sandstone base, I have been induced from necessity to proceed back to my encampment at Tomah, two and a half miles distant, where I have proposed to remain a day to afford rest to my wearied horses, a little herbage being also to be met with among the Ferns in the neighbouring open forest-land. 

“On the whole I have not so much to regret my incapability to advance forward to Cox’s River by this recently discovered route, since as already remarked, the remaining distance is a sandstone scrub with only an occasional patch of grass, and hence not likely to afford me a single plant other than what the parallel line of old road south of it furnishes; whilst, on the other hand, the mountain of Tomah, from the permanency of its shade, and general humidity of the atmosphere of its elevated summit, giving a peculiar character to its vegetation, appears every way more interesting to me in my pursuit of Flora; which has been the sole object that has induced me to take this journey.

“2d. A very high wind from the north-west during the night rendered our encampment not altogether safe, as the decayed branches of the trees, which the violence of the wind had broken off; were falling about us in every direction. My two horses having rejected every kind of herbage my present station afforded them, although frequently shifted to fresh spots, and finding they were daily becoming more debilitated for want of proper nourishing pasture, I was obliged to despatch them with a light load each to my encampment of the 27th, distant about nine miles, where there was a little grass, it appearing to me very evident, that should I continue them another day at Tomah, they would become so exceedingly exhausted as to be unable to return to Richmond with my luggage. 

Orchids at Mount Tomah December 1823

“As I continued at Tomah with the remaining portions of my baggage until the return of one of my people with a packhorse on the morrow, I employed myself collecting [p289] the parasitic Orchideae of these shaded situations, of which three species are very generally diffused through the forest, although difficult of access, since they hung from the highest branches generally of the largest timber trees, which I had not possibly the means of cutting down; however, I collected of the following as much as my enfeebled packhorse could possibly carry away, carefully packing them in moss which is most abundant in these woods – Sarcochilus falcatus in flower at this period, growing on the branches of Atherosperma; Dendrobium pugioniforme (allied to D. rigidum), and a third species with long cylindrical leaves, hanging from the highest trees. I succeeded in gathering specimens in flower of a tree forty feet high, whose natural habits and economy are very remarkable. 

“I have observed it a timber tree distinct in its growth from others in the forest; again it is frequently to be seen blended in connexion with the Dicksonia antarctica, the tree-fern of this mountain, each having its separate stem in the ground, but so united above, as to appear a single tree; although on one side could be perceived the rough bark of this tree, and on the opposite the rugged caudex of the tree-fern, and lastly, every specimen of the Dicksonia had young seedlings of this tree growing from its stem into which they were well rooted.* Jasminum gracile was observed, with Bignonia australis, twining round the branches of trees, the former affording me ripe fruit. 

* This tree was Quintinia Sieberi, A. De Cand.; for the details of this botanical curiosity, See Annals of Natural History, vol. ii. p. 356, note. 

“3d. Much wind and light clouded weather, but no immediate indication of rain so long as the wind continues from the north-west. 

Mount Tomah to Richmond District December 1823

“About 10 A.M., one of my people returned to me with a packhorse to convey the remaining part of my baggage from Tomah, we therefore quitted the mountain, proceeding easterly as briskly as the laden beast could travel, through the thick brushes of this stage, in the hope of reaching our destination ere dusk; however, rain blowing over from the southward, to which quarter the wind had shifted, and [p290] every appearance of a stormy boisterous night, induced us to halt at 6 P.M., in the open forest, near to a watergully about two miles short of my intended stage; heavy rains having drenched us, and a succession of showery clouds continued rising from the southern horizon, showed us the description of weather we might expect during the night. 

“4th. Leaving the tent at dawn of day, we reached the encampment in the brush at 7 A.M., where I determined to remain the whole of the day in order to afford rest to my horses, there being also some little grass and abundance of water, although in a scrubby desert. In a circuitous walk I took in the afternoon among the brush in the neighbourhood, I observed several common described plants having young fruit, among which I gathered ripe seeds of Dodonaea triquetra, Metrosideros costata, Lissanthe sapida, Acacia stricta, and Prostanthera violacea, – evening clouded, but fair.

“5th. About 7 A. M., we broke up our encampment, and proceeded easterly another stage, dividing the loads between the two packhorses according to their respective degrees of strength. With great exertion and fatigue both to my people and horses, we reached the foot of the range at 11 A.M., a distance of four miles from our fires, and there we were obliged to lighten the burdens of our beasts to enable them to reach the summit of Bell’s View, sending them down again for the remaining portions of their loads.

At 3 P.M., we had descended the range easterly through the forest to the spot whereon we had first encamped upon quitting Richmond, and where we again pitched our tents, intending to remain there a day should my horses require further rest. 

“6th. At dawn of day the weather was fair, although the sun rose in a watery cloud. At length some small showers fell in the forenoon, and distant thunder was heard to the southward. I continued at my present encampment throughout the day, more particularly to afford a further rest to my government horse, who it appeared this morning, had suffered much by his great exertions of the week. I traced a watergully [p291] convenient to my encampment, where I procured a quantity of Renealmia paniculata, specimens of Xerotes montana, Celastrus elaeagnoides, a shrub with lanceolate mucronate leaves; Asplenium flabelliforme, and Polypodium attenuatum. Stenocarpus salignus grew very luxuriant in the ravine which opened from the watergully.”

Parramatta December 1823

In consequence of the illness of the horse that had had the severe fall in the mountains, Mr Cunningham was detained some days, and did not finally return to Parramatta until the evening of the 10th. 

Bathurst January 1824

In the course of the month of January 1824, a trip was undertaken to the vicinity of Bathurst, for the purpose of collecting seeds that were at that time ripe. 

French Dumont D’Urville, botanist and
Rene P Lesson, naturalist January 1824

Shortly after his return to Parramatta, the French discovery ship the “Coquille”, Captain Duperry, arrived at Port Jackson and Mr Cunningham tendered to the scientific gentlemen attached to that vessel, the advantages he possessed of a long acquaintance with the country, for the means of forwarding their various pursuits during their stay in the colony and he always spoke with great pleasure of the acquaintance he thus formed with MM. Dumont D’Urville and Lesson, the first an officer (and a botanist), the latter the naturalist of the expedition.

Excursion to the Monaro Country March 1824

At the latter end of March, Mr Cunningham started with his people on a tour to the southward of the colony, through the counties of Camden and Argyle; he also visited Lakes George and Bathurst, the head waters of the Morrumbidgee, Brisbane Downs (the Monaroo of the aborigines), Marley’s Plains and the Shoalhaven gullies. The tract of country through which they travelled being of a generally good grazing character, did not afford so much botanical novelty as had been anticipated, but still some of the discoveries were interesting, from the curious identity of vegetation in many parts with that of the country in the vicinity, and to the northward of Bathurst on the western side of the great mountain range. A plant also of the south coast, discovered at Port Philip in 1802, by Mr Brown, (Lomatia ilicifolia), was also found in great profusion in the district of Argyle. [p292] 

The singular limestone caverns, at the Shoalhaven gullies, appear from the short visit Mr Cunningham paid them, as one of the most interesting points of his excursion; and he much regretted, that time and proper facilities alone prevented his bestowing a more lengthened investigation of those apparently very extensive natural excavations. The distance travelled over in this journey was about four hundred and twenty miles.

They returned the first week in May to Parramatta. 

The Illawarra July to August 1824

The months of July and August were spent at Mr Cunningham’s favourite botanising ground Illawarra, from whence a very valuable and extensive collection of living plants were brought to Parramatta and planted in small boxes or pots, to establish them previous to their removal to this country. One among the remarkable plants collected on this occasion was, the lofty tree-nettle of that district, (Urtica gigas, A.Cunn.), a tree measuring occasionally eighty or ninety feet in height, with a diameter of three feet, and also having violent stinging propensities, producing great irritation in the part affected for twenty-four hours. 

Excursion to Moreton Bay with John Oxley
1st September to 14th October 1824

While on this journey, Mr Cunningham received intimation of the intention of Mr Oxley to proceed to Moreton Bay for the purpose of examining the shores of the Brisbane, as to their capabilities of supporting a colony on their banks; and, as it was very much his wish to join this expedition, he hurried his return to Parramatta for that purpose, and having made the necessary arrangements for the employment of his people during his absence, he embarked with one servant, on board the “Amity” brig, and sailed from Port Jackson on the 1st of September.

The party reached Moreton Bay on the 11th, having touched at Port Macquarie on their passage. 

A boat expedition to survey the river Brisbane was projected soon after their arrival, in which Mr Cunningham accompanied Mr Oxley; they prosecuted their researches to the termination of boat navigation on the river; and although disappointed in their expectations relative to its length, they were rewarded by the discovery of a most valuable tract of country well fitted for [p293] the intended objects of the expedition. 

The botanical productions were of a particularly interesting character, among which may be mentioned – Araucaria Cunninghamii (A. Brisbanii, A.Cunn.), now first ascertained to be distinct from the Norfolk Island tree (A. excelsa), Codonocarpus australis, A. Cunn. (Gyrostemon attenuatum, Hook.,) Flindersia australis of stately growth, Acrostichum grande, A. Cunn., found growing on the last-mentioned tree, Castanospermum australe, A.Cunn.,* some epiphytical Orchideae, and many others evidently new; but from not being in flower or bearing fruit, could not then be determined. 

* Vide Bot. Misc. vol. i. p. 237, t. li, lii, liii, liv

Mr Cunningham returned to Port Jackson on the 14th of October. 

Bathurst November to December 1824

The closing journey of the year was one to Bathurst, in which, from the continued droughts, a much smaller collection of seeds was made than had been anticipated. Among the novelties of the journey were Banksia Cunninghamia, Sieb., (B. ledifolia, A.Cunn.,) Grevillea anethifolia, Br. (Anadenia, A. Cunn.,) now just found in fruit, and Eucalyptus mannifera, A. Cunn. 

Northwest expedition to the Liverpool Plains
29th March to 17 June 1825

During the winter months of 1825, (from April to June,) another expedition was undertaken to the northwest. 

Mr Cunningham left Parramatta the latter end of March, and crossing the Nepean river at Richmond, proceeded northerly towards the Wollomby, one of the southern feeders of the Hunter; from thence his course was altered more to the northwest, to Mount Danger, whose base he skirted, and, proceeding on the same course, he crossed his route of 1823, and made for Pandora’s Pass. 

From thence he descended into Liverpool plains, where, from the rainy weather, the extremely level country he was traversing had become a continuity of bogs and marshes: he experienced considerable inconvenience. He persevered in his progress across these extensive flats, and reached a more elevated country on the northern side of the plains; from thence he continued his route up Camden Valley to Dunlop’s Table Head, lat. 30° 47′ S., long. 150° E., when, finding from the dip of the country, that [p294] all further progress to the westward, northward, or north-eastward was impracticable – from the low flat country being under water – he halted for a couple of days to rest his packhorses, and take the necessary bearings from this his furthest point of progress northward. 

On the 18th of May he commenced his return journey, and arrived safely at Bathurst on the 7th of June, where he rested a week, and reached Parramatta on the 17th having completed , a circuitous tour of seven hundred miles.

The general features and character of Liverpool Plains is thus described by Mr Cunningham: 

“Liverpool Plains, which were discovered by Mr Oxley, in 1818, who entered them on the northwest side on his emerging from the great internal marshes, are vast levels comprehended between the meridian of 150° and 150° 50′ East, and within the parallels of 31° 35′ and and 30° 45′ South. They are disposed in elongated strips, which vary in breadth from five to fifteen miles, for the most part clear of timber, with the exception of a few straggling trees of Acacia pendula and a Eucalyptus, which are scattered singly at long distances on the general surface. 

“One uninterrupted tract of level plain, stretching from S. to N., being found by actual odometrical admeasurement to exceed fifty miles, whilst another portion, crossing it from W.N.W. to E.S.E., and extending to the very foot of the grand southern dividing range, formed a base of not less than sixty, and perhaps seventy mites. 

“From these two principal branches, lateral ramifications stretch themselves N. and S., of which Camden and Barrow’s valleys are of the former direction, and the rising grounds which are remarked to intercept the plane surface of this region, being by these minor branches perfectly isolated, form detached elevations of various figures and picturesque appearance on the general surface, whose entire area, included within the above-mentioned meridional and parallel lines, may comprehend a space of 1,500,000 acres, of which four-fifths may be considered in seasons not decidedly wet, available for all the purposes of agriculture and more especially cattle-grazing, and many fine dry [p295] situations on the acclivities of the rising grounds that stud its surface, and that are perfectly beyond the reach of waters, at a time when the levels are subjected to an inundation by a rainy season, affording a healthful walk for sheep.

“These great plains are watered by a brisk stream, which has its rise in the grand dividing southern range already adverted to, meandering northerly through them, and at fifty miles from it is united with the York River, which eventually becoming governed in its course by the dip of the country at N.N.W., makes its exit at that point of bearing, and in less than one hundred miles from its origin, pours its tributary waters into the depressed internal morasses – that common vortex that lays claim to all our western waters.

“We know of no other tract of timberless open country in New South Wales, that forms so perfect a level as this extensive portion of our interior. It is impossible to conceive a truer plain of any spot of ground constructed by the hand of labour, – its natural consequent therefore is, that ordinary rains, falling on the southern mountains, cause an overflow of the rivulet that waters it; and as the surface is generally somewhat lower than the outer banks of the stream, the greater part of the plains, together with the boundary forest on the same level, are laid under water to the distant boundary hills, of which fact the wrecks of floods on the rivulet banks, and the general bogginess of these forests afforded us an ample proof. 

“From the appearance of these indications, we were able to gather that the last considerable inundation had been assuredly as recent as the months of January or February last, (the level character of the country, and the time required to admit of the retiring of the waters being taken into consideration,) and although the general body of deluging water had almost wholly subsided, portions of the northern sides of the plains had a depth of 12 inches resting on its muddy surface, which effectually determined the limit of my journey to the northward.

“The soil of these plains, as may be readily presumed, is of an alluvial character, the successive depositions of the irrigations [p296] I have mentioned: parts, however, that I examined, had an admixture of the debris of the sandstone rocks that are found in decomposing masses at the base of the distant boundary hills.

“The prevailing vegetation that clothes these fertile plains, and where exuberance of growth was obvious to all, were of the following species:

  • Ajuga australis,
  • Ranunculus lappaceus, 
  • Plantago Struthionis, 
  • Imperata arundinacea,
  • Xeranthemum bracteatum, 
  • Chloris sp., 
  • Centaurea occidentalis, 
  • Danthonia gigantea, 
  • Scorzonera sp., 
  • Indigofera sp., and the proof a permanent marsh, 
  • Galium aparine, 
  • Dianella ensifolia, 
  • Lobelia inundata, 
  • Dalea sp., 
  • Mimulus gracilis, 
  • Podolepis rugata, 
  • Gratiola latifolia, 
  • Rumex dumosus, 
  • Cyperus sp.,
  • Campanula gracilis, 
  • Arundo Phragmitis. 

“Although I determined (trigonometrically,) the heights of several of the leading features of the boundary hills, of which no one exceeded eight hundred feet above the common plane of the circumjacent country, l had nevertheless to regret I could not ascertain the approximate elevation (not having a barometer,) of these great plains above the surface of the ocean; however, taking the actual barometrical admeasurement of the downs of Bathurst as a datum, and then using the results of the attentive observations of Mr Oxley, of the fall of the country to Wellington Valley, at four hundred feet below the settlement, and my own of the gradual rise again of the land to Pandora’s Pass, through the mountain range that divides Liverpool Plains from Hunter’s River, I feel confident in the assertion, that the height of these extensive levels will, when actually measured, prove to be 2400 or 2500 feet above the sea.”

The Wellington Valley
October to December 1825

The three last months of the year 1825 were spent in the vicinity of Wellington Valley, where a circuit of about one hundred and fifty miles on each side of the Macquarie River [p297] afforded a collection of seeds, specimens, and the tuberous roots of twenty-five species of terrestrial Orchideae, for a shipment to the Royal Gardens. Mr Cunningham was compelled at this period to place himself again under medical control. His state of health on his return from his late tour being considerably disorganized, and he was also suffering from a severe bilious attack; however, by the end of February he was sufficiently recovered to pursue his varied labours with renewed vigour.

New arrivals in the colony:
Lieutenant-General Darling 1825 and
Alexander Macleay 1826

A change of governors had taken place during his absence Lieutenant-General Darling had replaced Sir Thomas Brisbane, and Mr MacLeay had arrived at Sydney, to perform the duties of Colonial Secretary. 

The Cox’s River and The Illawarra District
February to July 1826

The next six months were employed in visiting the vicinity of Cox’s River and the Illawarra district. At both places collections were made for future transmission to England.