Extract from The London Journal of Botany Volume I 1842

Transcribed from the original text
and edited by Diane Challenor 

Part 5
7th June 1828 to 25th February 1831

This extract begins at page 107 of
The London Journal of Botany Volume I 1842


Moreton Bay, Brisbane Town, Mount Lindsay
7th June to 5th August 1828

In the month of June, 1828, Mr. Cunningham embarked for another visit to Moreton Bay. The voyage was a very boisterous one, and a horse that he was taking with him, was thrown down by a lurch of the vessel, and so severely injured, that it died the next day. 

On their passage, they touched at Port Macquarie, and landed at Brisbane Town on the 1st of July. Mr. Fraser, the colonial botanist, accompanied Mr. Cunningham on this trip. 

An expedition was, shortly after their arrival, undertaken to Mount Lindsay, whose elevation is 5,700 feet, and the grandeur of the scenery in its immediate vicinity, appears to have afforded much gratification to all the party. 

Journey to reach Cunningham’s Gap
5th August 1828

On their return route, Mr. Cunningham and his people struck off for the Limestone Station, on Bremer River, while Captain Logan and Mr. Fraser returned direct to Brisbane Town. 

After giving his cattle a short rest, Mr. Cunningham started again, with the intention of making the Gap, in the dividing range, that he had found last year, where his journey then terminated, and thus to connect his discoveries. 

After some difficult travelling, he was fortunate, on the 25th of August, in finding a route, that with trifling labour, may render the passage through the mountains perfectly accessible for all the purposes of the agriculturist, who, in future days, will doubtless become the denizen of the vast pastoral country to the westward. Thus a second time, discovering in this singularly inaccessible country, an outlet to rich and fertile lands, which for ages will employ the energies and talents of the industrious farmers of New South Wales.

In a walk towards a ridge on which grew Araucaria Cunninghamia [p108] in great abundance and magnificence, Mr. Cunningham was reminded of his first visit to these districts, in company of the late Surveyor-General Oxley, and he pays a well-merited tribute to the worth and talents of that gentleman. 

“In traversing a patch of forest-ground formerly walked over by Mr. Oxley accompanied by Lieut. Butler and myself, to the Pine Ranges, I could fain have recalled to life that lamented gentleman, who so long and so highly creditably to himself, filled the important situation of Surveyor-General in this colony, and many a pleasing incident connected with this excellent man, now recurred to my recollection. I passed over the ground and ascended the darkly brushed acclivity of the Pine Range by the same opening in the thicket we had, four years since, penetrated to the higher points, where grew those stately timbers, the monarchs of these forests, the new Araucaria.”

Journey to Hay’s Peak and Tracing the Brisbane River 1828

A further exploratory journey was taken to the westward and northwest, in which the position of Hay’s Peak, a conical, densely-wooded mountain, situated in 27º 36′ S. and 152º 8′ E. was determined, and the Brisbane River explored, as far as the vicinity of Lister’s Peak, in 26º 52′ the most northern point of Mr. Cunningham’s discoveries, of which he says : 

“During this short journey, in which I employed a small party about six weeks, I traced the principal branch of the river as far north as 26º 52′, until its channel assumed merely the character of a chain of very shallow stagnant pools. 

“In this excursion, I made such observations as fully established two facts, viz: That the Brisbane River, at one period supposed to be the outlet of the marshes of the Macquarie, &c. originates at the eastern side of the dividing range, its chief sources being in elevated lands lying almost on the coastline between the parallels of 26º and 27º, and that the main ranges which separate the coast waters from those that flow inland continue to the north in one unbroken chain, as far as the eye could discern from a commanding station, near my most distant encampment up the river, and present no opening or hollow part in their elevated ridge [p109] through which to admit of a road being made to the interior beyond them. 

“My pass [Cunningham’s Gap], therefore, through these lofty mountains the mean elevation of which above the shores of Moreton Bay, cannot be less than 4,000 feet, seems thus the only opening to the interior country from the coast between the parallels of 26º and 29º South.*” 

* Vide, the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London vol. ii, p. 99.

Mr. Cunningham now bade farewell to his friends on the Brisbane, and embarked himself and collections, on board the “Isabella”, government schooner, on the 29th of October 1828, and on the evening of the 4th of November, anchored in Sydney Cove. 

The botanical collections of this expedition were of a very interesting and valuable character, living plants having been procured of:

  • Araucaria cunninghamii [Hoop Pine], 
  • Flindersia australis [Native Teak], 
  • Oxleya xanthoxyla [Flindersia xanthoxyla]
  • Gyrostemon attenuatum [Codonocarpus attenuatus], 
  • Castanospermum australe, 
  • Cupania xylocarpa, 
  • Bignonia jasminoides, 
  • Cargillia arborea, 
  • Capparis cydoniodora and that magnificent specimen of 
  • Proteaceae, Grevillia robusta, also several species of 
  • Orchideae, and that giant fern 
  • Arcrostichum grande A. Cunn. (A. fuciforme, Wall.);

these, with an equally valuable collection of seeds and specimens, were the fruits of this interesting journey.

Blue Mountains to Bathurst January 1829

In the month of January, 1829, a journey was undertaken over the Blue Mountains, towards Bathurst, in search of seeds, generally found ripe at this season of the year; however, on the present occasion, Mr. Cunningham was sorely disappointed, from the excessively dry season that had just gone by, the effects of which he thus graphically describes: 

Blue Mountains, Springwood 1829

“On passing Springwood, a military post, situate twelve miles on the eastern ascent of the mountains, we were much struck with the blighted aspect of vegetation, in consequence of the long-continued drought of the year, and the excessive solar heats that have been very generally experienced throughout the colony, more particularly during the last two months. 

Mount York, Vale of Clwyd 1829

“This sad, sombre scene we carried on with us the greater [p110] part of our way over these ranges to Mount York, where the public road abruptly dips into the Vale of Clwyd. Many of the Acaciae and other Leguminosae which had afforded me their well-ripened seeds formerly at this season of the year, I observed had met with so severe a check, that although they had produced in a partial manner, their flowers were unable to perfect their fruit; whilst others, again, which in moderate seasons of moisture had put forth their blossoms in October, so as to furnish ripe seeds about the opening of the new year, were now observed to be struggling for an existence, not having blossomed at all. 

“Such was the parched condition of vegetation generally, that it only required a spark and a breeze to set the whole of this mountainous country on fire; this had been partially effected either by careless travellers having allowed the fires of their several bivouacs to spread, or by the aborigines in hunting; for miles the flames had destroyed every trace of vegetable life and had left a blackened waste of the most desolate description. 

“At length we reached Cox’s river, but meeting with no plants in the state in which I had hoped to have found them at this season, I did not continue onward to Bathurst, but by lengthened stages returned to Parramatta with only a few packets of seeds. 

“The heat of the present summer has been greater than we have felt it for two or three years preceding. The thermometer has not only risen to a higher average, but has repeatedly been observed to stand during noon or for three hours of our noon tide glare in the shade and under a verandah facing the south, at 105º in Parramatta, and even higher in Sydney, in situations neither affected by direct or even reflected solar heat.” 

On his return to Parramatta Mr. Cunningham received the melancholy information of the demise of his venerable father, who had reached the patriarchal age of eighty-four. 

Third Voyage to Moreton Bay
May to September 1829

Early in May Mr. Cunningham undertook a third voyage to Moreton Bay, at which place and at Brisbane Town he continued till the middle of June; he then made an excursion to [p111] the head waters of the Bremer and the country in its vicinity, enriching his stores both botanically as well as geographically.

He returned to Brisbane Town the latter end of July, where and in its environs as far as Campbell’s Range he continued his exertions till the middle of September, when he embarked himself and people with upwards of seventy boxes or pots of living plants on board a colonial vessel for Sydney, at which port he arrived the latter end of the month.

A plan to return to England with Captain King is thwarted 1829

About this period Mr. Cunningham anticipated the gratification of once more joining his old commander, Captain King, who it was expected would, after finishing his survey of the west coast of South America, come to Sydney to refit his vessel, “The Adventure”, and return to England via the northwest coast of Australia, and by that means endeavour to complete the survey of that portion of the north-west coast that was left incomplete at the termination of his fourth voyage in 1822. Mr. Cunningham would, if this plan had been carried out, have joined “The Adventure”, and returned to England with Captain King, but despatches from the Admiralty ordered that officer to return to England direct.

Norfolk Island May 1830

In the early part of May, Mr. Cunningham embarked on board the “Lucy Ann”, for Norfolk Island, and landed at that penal settlement on the 11th. Of this remarkable island our traveller thus speaks:

“In consequence of the heavy surf at the usual landing place in Sydney Bay the master worked the vessel round to Cascade Bay, on the north side of the island, where finding little or no swell, the wind blowing off shore, the boat was lowered down, and the despatches were landed in charge of a soldier. By this opportunity, I also stept on shore and walked over to the settlement on the southern side of the island. In the patches of land that bound the line of road which stretches from N. to S. across the island, I recognised among many plants quite new to me, several species indigenous also to New Zealand, and everywhere the lemon and guava trees (introduced by the first settlers in 1788), exhibited their rich fruit which formed a pleasing diversity when contrasted with the extremely beautiful [p112] dark hue of the prevailing laurel-like foliage of the plants around them. 

“On reaching the settlement, I waited upon Colonel Morrisset, the commandant, who received me with the utmost politeness, and who upon perusing a letter frown the Colonial Government respecting myself, (of which I was the bearer,) assured me of his readiness to afford every facility to enable me to effect the objects of my visit. With this view a government servant who had traversed the inland in every direction, and therefore well acquainted with its intricacies was ordered to attend me in my daily excursions. 

“Of the vegetable kingdom in this island, none are more remarkable than its noble pine (Araucaria excelsa), and tree fern (Alsophila excelsa), and as these are lofty plants and generally grouped together in small bodies on every part of the island they form a most decided feature of the landscape. 

“In habit and general appearance, the plants assume more the aspect of the vegetation of New Zealand than that of Australia or any other country, as much so as the Cowdie Pine (Dammara australis), a tree also of gigantic stature, in the shaded forests that clothe the undulated surface of New Zealand, marks a landscape in aspect exceedingly similar to that of Norfolk Island.* 

* The following plants of Norfolk Island are also frequent on the shores of the Bay of Islands, New Zealand:

  • Phormium tenax, 
  • Olea apetala, 
  • Areca Banksii, (A. sapida Forst ?) 
  • Myoporum laetum, 
  • Dracaena australis, 
  • Freycinetia Baueriana, (the New Zealand plant is probably distinct and may be designated as F. Banksii), 
  • Dodonaea orientalis, 
  • Tetragona expansa, 
  • Polygonum australe, 
  • Samolus littoralis.

“At the discovery of the island in 1774, Forster, the naturalist, who accompanied Captain Cook on his second voyage round the globe, had an opportunity of landing on its north shore, near Cascade Bay, when among several unpublished species of plants he detected two new genera, the one his Gynopogon, (Alyxia Br.) of which genus the intertropical parts of New South Wales furnish several species – the other absolutely limited to the island his Blackburnia. 

“We hear of no further scientific remarks having [p113] been made on the botany of this beautiful isolated spot, until that able naturalist and draughtsman, Ferdinand Bauer, visited it, about the year 1804; and who, doubtless, during his stay, collected every plant of its small but interesting flora; which, exclusive of a few mosses and lichens, comprehend something more than one hundred distinct species, belonging to full half that number of natural orders. Of these, ten furnish timbers that might be usefully employed in carpentry, boat building, and even in cabinet work, viz:

  • Araucaria excelsa, 
  • Elaeodendron australe? (E. curtipendulum, Endl.) 
  • Blackburnia pinnata, 
  • Hibiscus Patersonii (Lagunaria Patersonii, G. Don), 
  • Olea apetala, 
  • Croton sanguifluum, A. Cunn. MSS. (Baloghia lucida, Endl.), 
  • Kleinhofia ? elliptica, A. Cunn. MSS. (Ungeria floribunda, Schott and Endl.), 
  • Pennantia corymbosa,
  • Mimusops laurina, A. Cunn. MSS. (Achras costata, Endl.), 
  • Coprosma villosa, A. Cunn. MSS. (C. pilosa, Endl.)” 

Phillip Island and a near death experience 17th June 1830

Mr. Cunningham having expressed a desire to Colonel Morisset to visit Phillip Island, that officer very kindly made such preparations as were necessary, for sending our botanist to this small islet, the result of which had nearly proved of a most disastrous and fatal nature, but which will be much more interestingly described in Mr. Cunningham’s own words: 

“Immediately after the government vessel that had conveyed me to Norfolk Island, had been dispatched on her return voyage to Port Jackson, the weather set in and continued so tempestuous, and the surf on the bar was so considerable, that several weeks elapsed before a safe and favourable opportunity was afforded me to land on Phillip Island, to examine its vegetation, which it was the opinion of my friends at the settlement, I should find to differ somewhat from the plants of Norfolk Island. This opportunity occurred on the 17th of June. 

“It was a fine serene morning, with a light air from the northwest; and as the surf on the reef was exceedingly moderate, the commandant (on all occasions desirous of meeting my utmost wishes), ordered the large [p114] launch to be got ready, to convey me across; never apprehending, although many were the reports that had come to his knowledge of the schemes which certain of the convicts had in contemplation to effect their escape from the settlement, and that my departure for Phillip Island was to be the signal by which the individuals of the party were to muster, to make the attempt, as it afterwards came out.

Among Allan’s three convict servants were two temporarily assigned Norfolk Island convicts and the other was probably Mr Cunningham’s permanently assigned convict from Sydney, Simon Mahoney. Simon Mahoney was possibly also known as Simon Meney, who was 26 years of age when transported for life, arrived on the “Cambridge” on 17th September 1827 and listed in the Convict Indents and other convict records. It is possible he had been assigned to Mr Cunningham in 1827 and may have been with him on his exploratory journeys between 1827 and 1831. Simon received his ticket-of-leave in 1841. He had been sentenced to life for stealing a plate in Dublin.

Source : State Records Authority of New South Wales Reel 397 and Reel 2749 x30 and Reel 968

“With provisions for a week, for myself and three servants, and accompanied by Lieut. Borough, of the 39th, on duty at the settlement, I crossed the channel (estimated five miles broad), and safely landed on Phillip Island, at the usual rock, within a small bay, on its northern shore, and having pitched the tent at the back of its stony beach, prepared myself for the day’s excursion. 

“This isolated spot is elevated and of broken surface; its ridges, which, for the most part, are perfectly bare of trees or herbage, rising on its south eastern side, to a peak or cone, at least 1,200 feet above the level of the sea, immediately at its base. On all sides it exhibits a cliffy, precipitous character, so that landing can only be effected with safety at one or two points. Its geological structure is precisely the same as that of the larger island, the naked soil being a red clay, and the rock a trap, assuming a basaltic form on its southern side.

“Ascending by a steep acclivity, we gained the ridge immediately above the encampment, the bare sides of which, the rains had grooved into deep gutters, and in two hours, we made the entire circumference of the island, notwithstanding the interruption we met with from ravines, which separating the several ridges that diverge from the peak, fall on the northern and western sides. 

“The interior presents some deep hollows, in parts densely wooded with small trees, and an underwood, chiefly of the thorny Caper bush (Busbeckia nobilis), bearing fruit like a green lemon, and very difficult to travel through. 

“As a resource, in the event of a failure of animal food at the settlement, a number of goats and pigs were formerly put on shore here, and allowed the entire range of the island; where, although they met with [p115] but a very scanty supply of water, there being none but what is caught in hollows in the rocks, which the ravines furnish after heavy rains, they nevertheless, found an ample support in its varied herbage, moistened by the dews at night. 

“The produce of this stock has at various periods, been greatly thinned, but as the animals have not been disturbed during the last twelve months, their numbers are again considerably augmented. We had no means of estimating the aggregate number of either on the island, as the swine lie close during the day, beneath the dense underwood, in the ravines; when, also, but few goats make their appearance, the greater body being within excavations in the rocky face of the cliffs, perfectly inaccessible to man.

“Of the plants, I have to remark that they were, with but few exceptions, the same as those of Norfolk Island. Among them were a species of Hibiscus (H. insularis, Endl.), which has a suffruticose, spinous stem, bore decayed yellowish flowers, appearing not to differ from a plant found at Port Macquarie. I collected flowering specimens of Blackburnia pinnata, not previously met with in that state, and also of Capparis citrina, A. Cunn. MSS. (Busbeckia nobilis, Endl.), and the ripe fruit of Mimusops laurina, A. Cunn. MSS. (Achras costata, Endl.), which being produced in abundance, afford considerable provender for the pigs. In the shades, I detected a dark, glossy, pinnated-leaved twiner; it appeared to be an undescribed species of Clitoria (Clianthus Baueri, A. Cunn. MSS.).

“About four o’clock, we returned to the tent, when the officer who had accompanied me to the island, joined the boat, which I had detained on his account, and returned to the settlement; and as I proposed to occupy myself another day on this isolated spot, I requested that upon his leaving my encampment, he would send the boat over for me on the 19th.

“18th. During the preceding night, the wind was extremely violent at periods, and some rain fell between the squalls; and as the morning sky was much overcast, and the [p116] wind, after sunrise, began to freshen from the north western quarter, there were but too evident appearances of the day proving more or less showery. 

“At an early hour, whilst it continued fair, I again climbed the ridge, accompanied by one of my people; and after pushing our way through some brushes of Caper, entered a thick, close, wood, in which Croton sanguifluum (Baloghia lucida, Endl.), Hibiscus Patersonii (Lagunaria Patersonii. G. Don), Myoporum obscurum, Forst., Blackburnia pinnata, Forst., the large Piper (P. psittacorum, Endl. and Olea apetala, Vahl.), were very frequent. This latter I found in flower and young fruit, and was, therefore, fully enabled to establish its identity with Forster’s plant, originally found by that botanist in New Zealand. 

“The Coccoloba australis (Polygonum australe, A. Rich.) which I formerly detected on the sandy shores of the Bay of Islands, I also met with, in open situations, but not in fructification. On the southern and western sides of the island, where more particularly I directed my walk, I observed on grassy spots Commelina cyanea, R. Br., Solanum nigrum?, Plumbago zeylanica, with the purple flowering Dolichos(Canavalia Baueriana, Endl.) bearing its pods, which are tricarinated on their upper edge. A few blighted trees of Araucaria stood detached from each other in open exposed situations, but not a single tree fern was met with in the deep gullies we descended, where only two species of Filices, so frequent on the large island, were remarked. 

“We had, at length, traversed every part of the island, when rain began to fall in heavy showers, which appearing to have set in for the day induced me to hasten back to the encampment. The evening closed in with a very lowering aspect; the wind which had blown during the greater part of the day in squalls, having brought up rain-charged clouds from the north-western horizon, at length set in a tempestuous night, from which my people found ample shelter beneath a well-thatched Guinea-grass hut, which they had constructed in the course of the day.

“19th. Much rain fell in the course of the night, and [p117] this morning it blew a hard gale from the north-west, which drove up a heavy surf over the rocky beach, immediately beneath the spot on which we were at rest. 

Escaped Convicts threaten the life of Allan Cunningham
and his servants 19th June 1830

“About five o’clock, or thereabouts, whilst it was still dark, I was suddenly awoke in my bed, by three men rushing into my tent, and in an alarming boisterous tone desiring me to rouse up, as they had taken the settlement, and had put the commandant in gaol, and hurried me to dress myself, as I was, they said to go with them. In an instant, before I was well awake, or had time to consider the character of the individuals who were about me, a fire-stick was brought into the tent by one of the party, and on lighting a candle, which they had found, they seized my fire arms, and hastily turning over my baggage, carried off my bedding, wearing apparel, a hamper of cooking utensils, the whole of my provisions, &c. 

“One of the party, on placing my hat upon his head, turned out my watch, which I had placed within it for security, the preceding evening. The watch was, as a matter of course, taken as a valuable prize although I begged hard for it to be returned to me, on the ground of its having been lent me by a friend; the reply made was that ‘they would borrow it of me,’ as it would be of use to them in the long journey (voyage) they had before them.

“This scene of plunder had gone on some minutes before my people, who were roused by the noise, made any attempt to approach me. In this they were prevented by others of the party, who had landed from a boat now perceived in the offing, and who seized their blankets, and such of their provisions as they found within their hut. 

“Hearing a parley between these strangers and my people, I was in the act of stepping out of my tent to see what was going on without, when one of these unwelcome visitors, who was doing the duty of sentry in front of the tent, with my fowling piece on his shoulder, thrust the muzzle of it towards me, desiring with a horrid oath, that I should keep within, or else he would shoot me. 

“At this time, we enumerated eight persons about us, all men of determined character, who having laid [p118] claim to every article of property we possessed, immediately proceeded to strike my tent, the material of which, they said, they required for the voyage they had in contemplation, and it was instantly torn down and with the other articles, and a cask containing about twelve gallons of fresh water carried off to the boat, which was kept in charge of three men. 

“They repeatedly demanded with much vehemence my compass; and finding I had neither that nor any other instrument useful in navigation, they manifested great disappointment. As soon as those who had landed had again reached the boat, by swimming through a heavy surf she was put off, and was almost immediately, in consequence of the continued darkness of the morning, out of sight.

“When they had left us, which was according to our estimation, about half-past five o’clock, we began to look back on the scene of plunder, we had so lately witnessed. It was fortunate for us that the rain, which had fallen in heavy showers in the earlier hours of the morning, had ceased, as we now found ourselves but half-dressed, in our shirts and trowsers, having myself neither hat or shoes, and without the shelter of a tent. 

“Two of the men who were with me, having been prisoners on Norfolk Island for some years, immediately recognised the several persons who had landed; they were known as desperate convicts, whose term of transportation was for life; and as they repeatedly hailed by name those in charge of the boat, it was at once ascertained of whom this ruffian party of runaways was composed. They were, seven Irish, two English, one French, and one Swede; in all eleven persons.

“Their report of having taken the settlement and imprisoned Colonel Morisset and his officers, appeared to me at first view unworthy of credit, and therefore it gave me not a moment’s uneasiness. I was rather disposed to conceive it probable, from the circumstance of their having carried off our cask, which contained about twelve gallons of fresh water, as well as from the expression that had escaped them, intimating that they had a long voyage before them, that they [p119] had under cover of the extreme darkness of the morning, found means to escape with one of the boats, leaving the settlement, however, in the undisturbed possession of the commandant. This view of their proceedings was confirmed on the arrival of the large launch from the settlement, about seven o’clock, which had been despatched with a party of soldiers, under the orders of Lieutenant Borough, in pursuit of them. 

Lieutenant Borough pursues the escaped convicts June 1830 

“To that very active officer I communicated every particular of what had taken place, when conceiving it probable that previous to their putting to sea, these convicts would fill up their fresh water at Cascade Bay, he immediately pushed off, and with the utmost despatch made for that side of Norfolk Island. Not meeting with them there, he returned toward, Phillip Island, and after cruising about to the southward and eastward during the whole of the day without seeing the least trace of them, he returned to me at dusk. 

After encountering much bad weather, and landing his party, we passed the night on the island together, and next morning (20th) about sunrise, we crossed over, and safely landed at the settlement where I learnt it was the full intention of the runaways to have obliged me to have joined them to assist in navigating their boat to the land, to which they were destined. 

“This design, however, they abandoned on finding I had neither a compass nor any other instrument useful in navigation; a circumstance that repeatedly called forth from them during the short period they were on shore with me, the strongest expressions of disappointment.

“Driven to desperation, and apprehensive that they would be immediately pursued by an armed boat from the settlement, it appeared evident that on leaving me they made an offing, and then stood away at once before the wind in a south-easterly direction, with the hope of making the North Cape of New Zealand, distant 460 geographic miles. 

The escaped convicts assumed to perish in heavy seas June 1830

“The fact, however, of eight of their number being landsmen, altogether unaccustomed to the oar, and the inability of the three who could steer to pursue a steady course to the point to which they were destined, (admitting they knew its bearing and [p120] distance which it is more than probable they did not,) left no doubt on the mind of every person on Norfolk Island of their having perished in the very heavy weather that prevailed throughout the first day and night of their voyage.”

Mr. Cunningham often spoke of the extraordinary escape he had experienced on this occasion, for taking into consideration the reckless, determined, and brutal character of the party who landed on Phillip Island, it was a most providential circumstance that on being disappointed in not finding nautical instruments in his possession, that they had not wreaked their vengeance on him, and added murder to a long list of crimes. 

The amount of property plundered from him, was worth about £25; and on his return to Sydney, he presented a memorial to the Colonial Government, praying for remuneration for what had been stolen from him, but he was coolly (officially) informed that not being in the employment of the Colonial Government his Excellency would not be justified in granting indemnification.

Our botanist now became desirous of returning to Sydney, but the vessel which had been long expected, had not yet made her appearance, and it was not until the 5th of August, that she was perceived making for the island; the state of the weather during her stay was exceedingly tempestuous, so much so that the master was fearful of anchoring on that rocky coast, and consequently kept under weigh the whole time he was discharging his cargo of convicts and stores.

At length, on the 31st, Mr. Cunningham sent off his baggage and collections; among which, were four large cases of living plants; and on the second of September, having bade farewell to the friends with whom he had so long resided, and who accompanied him to the beach, he prepared to quit the shore with the despatches of the Commandant. However, a sudden squall appeared outside, and Colonel Morisset not caring to order the boat off until it was seen how far it would affect the bar, waited a short period. In a few minutes a heavy surf came rolling in and breaking high over the edge of the reef, covered its surface with a white foam; this was [p121] succeeded by others, evidently the effect of a southerly gale; and soon the bar was pronounced perfectly impassible. 

Now as the whole of Mr. Cunningham’s collections, baggage, bedding, &c., were on board the vessel, it may readily be supposed he was not a little disappointed upon thus being prevented from joining the “Lucy Ann”. His friends consoled him by observing that as the surf on the bar had not got up in consequence of any wind blowing on shore, but the result of a distant southern gale, the bar would in all probability be passable in the morning. 

However, in the night, the wind veering to the north eastward, freshened to a hard gale, and when the morning came, the vessel was not to be seen; she had been blown off to the southward, and being exceedingly light, nine days elapsed before she again made her appearance, when, although the weather was stormy and there was much sea in the offing, it was deemed advisable to lose no time in joining the vessel, as a return of a northerly gale was to be apprehended. 

Accordingly, on the afternoon of the 11th, Mr, Cunningham embarked in a well-manned whale boat, and after hard pulling for about four miles through a heavy sea, reached the vessel in safety; and she immediately proceeded on her voyage. The vessel having strong gales and an easterly current to contend against, made a long and tedious voyage, and did not reach Port Jackson until the afternoon of the 28th, when Mr. Cunningham once more stepped on shore in Sydney after an absence of 21 weeks.* [p122] 

* The following plants were detected in Norfolk Island by Mr. Cunningham, that are not enumerated in Endlicher’s Prodromus Florae Norfolkicae.

Ramalina scopulorum, Ach. Syn. p. 297. Lichen scopulorum, Eng. Bot. t. 688. On the trunks of Araucaria excelsa.

Psilotum triquetrum, Sw. Fil. p. 187. Schk. crypt. t. 165. b. On decayed trees in shaded woods.

Polypodium phymatodes, Drynaria vulgare, J. Sm. Jour. Bot. v. 4. p. 61. Linn. Mant. p. 306. Schk. crypt. t. 9. On decayed timber in damp woods.

Drymoglossum carnosum, J. Sm. Jour. Bot. v. 4. p. 66. Niphobolus carnosus, Blume. Fl. Jav. t. 19.? On rocks.

Nephrodium remotum, Hew. (nov. sp.) frondibus pubescentibus lanceolatis pinnatis, pinnis lineari-lanceolatis sessilibus obliqué crenatis ciliatis apice attenuatis integerrimis: infimis remotis subtriangularibus, sori medio venarum insidentibus.

Frons 2-3 pedalis. Stipes venaeque pubescentes. Indusium reniforme pilosum. Shaded woods. This fern belongs to a section of Nephrodium extremely difficult to determine specifically, but the character of the lower pinnae being so very distant, (3 to 4 inches,) and their nearly triangular form will distinguish it from its congeners. Found also at Timor, 1819.

Nephrodium microsorum, Endl., and N. calanthum, Endl., Prod. p. 9. I have little hesitation in considering the same plant, the latter having its sori somewhat more elaborate. At the same time from comparison of specimens in the Banksian herbarium, I have every reason to believe the two plants are identical with Aspidium (Polystichum) aristatum, Sw.) 

(Asplenium assimile, Endl., Prod. p. 10. is Allantodia australis, R. Br.)

Lomaria norfolkiana, Hew. (nov. sp.) (Stegania, A. Cunn. MSS), frondibus glabris lanceolatis pinnatifidis, laciniis sterilibus subfalcatis acuminatis integris apice subdentatis: infimis semiorbicularibus, fertilibus angustioribus.

Frons sterilis bipedalis glabra. Pinnae 3-4 pollicares. On the margins of water courses in shady ravines. This fern, which I apprehend is the same that Endlicher has taken up as Stegania lanceolata, R. Br. is very distinct from the Van Dieman’s Land plant, resembling considerably more Lomaria acuminata, Desv. a native of the Mauritius, but that fern has not the semi-orbicular laciniae of the Norfolk Island plant.

Cyathea medullaris, Sw. has been enumerated by Endlicher, (Prod. p. 15.) as a native of Norfolk Island, Mr. Cunningham did not find it, and says – ” This fern tree is not indigenous to Norfolk Island; it was not seen there by Ferd. Bauer, nor has it been since observed by other botanists. Mr. Brown has ascertained that it is not noted by Forster, in his herbarium, as a native of Norfolk Island, and it is therefore probable that Endlicher on reading Lieut. Kings remarks in Hunter’s voyage, p. 313, had concluded that it referred to Cyathea medullaris, a plant found only in New Zealand, and has on this conclusion inserted it. 

Lieut. King thus describes the Norfolk Island plant: “This tree grows to the height of 80 feet, (one trunk which I felled in 1830 measured 57 feet without the fronds, A. C.) and the branches which resemble those of the palm tree in their growth, fall off every year, leaving an indentation on the trunk. The leaves of these branches, which are twelve in number are much like the heath fern, from whence this tree obtained the name of the fern-tree. The middle of the tree from the root to the apex, consists of a white substance resembling a yam, and when boiled, it tastes like a bad turnip, this the hogs feed on very eagerly; the outside of the trunk is hard wood, and full of regular indentations from the top to the bottom. The tree is found in great plenty in all parts of the island.” This is the Alsophila excelsa of Mr. Brown, of which the late Ferd. Bauer made some magnificent drawings during his stay on the island in 1804.

Commelina cyanea, R. Br., Prod. v. 1. p. 269. Near the settlement.

Cordyline cannaefolia, R. Br,, Prod. v. 1. p. 280. On the dry grassy sides of the hills immediately above the military officers’ gardens.

Crinum norfolkianum, A. Cunn. MSS. (nov sp.) foliis margine laevibus, pedicellis ovario parum longioribus, staminibus laciniis lanceolatis dimidio brevioribus, filamentis anthera 5-6-ies longioribus. In wet ground, Mill or Arthur’s Vale. This species is near C. pedunculatum, R. Br. but certainly distinct.

Typha angustifolia, R. Br., Prod. v. 1. p. 338, Swampy ground, Arthur’s Vale.

(Pimelea linifolia, Sm., Endl. Prod. p. 46. Certainly not indigenous to Norfolk Island, and if it ever grew there it must have been introduced from Port Jackson by the first settlers as an ornamental plant, and upon the island being abandoned in 1807, the plant left to itself must have died, not liking that continued humid atmosphere which prevails during the winter months. I found no trace of it in 1830.” A. Cunn. MSS.

Solanum laciniatum, Hort. Kew. v. 1. p. 247. Ed. 2., Bot. Mag. t. 319. Near the settlement.

Solanum nigrum, Linn., Eng. Bot. t. 566. Common everywhere.

Alyxia daphnoides, A. Cunn., Bot. Mag. t. 3313. Dry shaded woods.

Cynoglossum australe, R. Br., Prod. v. 1. p. 495. Near the settlement.

Vitex ovata, Thun. jap. p. 257. A shrubby procumbent plant on the rocks and sands of the coast, flowering in December.

Guilandina Bonduc, Linn., Lam. I 1.t. 336. In the woods between Long Ridge Farm and the southwest coast.

(Steblorrhiza speciosa, Endl., Prod. p. 97. is Clianthus Baueri, A. Cunn. MSS. C. carneus, Lind. in Bot. Reg Sept. 1841, t. 51.)

Dodonaea spathulata, Sm. in Rees Cyc. v. 5. p. 12. n. 2. D. viscosa, Forst. non Linn. Sides of Mount Pitt.

(Coprosma lucida, Forst., Endl., Prod. p. 60. “I am by no means clear that this plant is not distinct from Forster’s plant which I gathered at New Zealand in 1826, in having broader emarginated leaves.” A. Cunn. MSS.)

Hymenanthera oblongifolia, A. Cunn. MSS. (nov. sp.) foliis oblongis, basi attenuatis petiolatis, margine calloso-denticulatis. A slender shrub bearing fruit in July, on the skirts of woods at Long Ridge, at the junction of the old cross road leading to Cascade Road.

Nasturtium sylvestre, R. Br. in Hort. Kew. v. 4 . p. 110., Ed . 2 . Eng. Bot. t. 2324 . Wet ravines and running streams.

Clematis indivisa, Dec., Prod. v. 1 . p. 5. C. integrifolia, Forst. non Linn. Common on the Cascade road.

Final excursions
before returning to
England 1831

Illawarra, Broken Bay, Blue Mountains and Cox’s River 1831

It had been Mr. Cunningham’s intention, when he returned from Norfolk Island, to have gone on a botanical excursion to Swan River; but the lengthened period he was detained at that island, and the very little communication [p123] there was at that time between Sydney and Western Australia, prevented his purposed visit. He, in consequence, employed himself in collecting seeds and terrestrial Orchideae in the vicinity of Parramatta awaiting instructions from England [p124] for his future guidance. On the 16th of November, however, these instructions reached him, and they were to the effect, that he was peremptorily directed to return to England by the 1st of April, 1831, a date impossible for him to comply with, as it would have entirely precluded his making up such a collection to bring with him as his lengthened sojourn in the colony demanded. 

He immediately acknowledged the receipt of his recall, and stated the impracticability of fulfilling it to the letter, owing to the length of time the Treasury minute had been reaching him, (viz.: from 30th of March to 16th of November), a term of nearly eight months. In the latter end of December, he paid a farewell visit to his favourite botanising ground, Illawarra, from whence he returned richly laden with its valuable stores, as well of living plants as of seeds and bulbs. A journey was also made to the vicinity of Broken Bay the habitat of the very beautiful Grevillea Caleyi, R. Br. (G. blechnifolia, A. Cunn. MSS.), which is there found in considerable abundance. The seeds appeared to be a favourite food for the black cockatoo. 

On the 6th of January, 1831, a journey was undertaken across the Blue Mountains to Cox’s River [Glenroy], which employed a week, at the end of which, he returned with a collection of seeds and plants of most of the interesting varieties of that district.

Goodbye Parramatta and to his circle of friends 1831

Mr. Cunningham’s residence in New South Wales, was at length drawing to a close, and I feel confident that the [p125] description of it cannot be better given than in his own words, which I shall extract from the close of the journal of his proceedings in that country.

“My collections and baggage being so far in a forward state for immediate removal by water to Sydney, I fixed on the afternoon of the 12th of February to leave Parramatta, and as the commander of the “Forth”, Captain Robertson, had advised me that he would be ready for sea on the 15th I lost no time in taking a final leave of such of the extensive circle of friends I had formed in the course of my long residence in the colony as were within the range of a day’s journey, from whom, as well as from others residing in remoter districts, whose numerous civilities to me on various occasions have laid me under a great weight of obligation, I was happy to receive commissions to attend to in London for them. 

“These farewell visits occupied me a week. I returned to Parramatta on the evening of the 8th, and, next day, the few articles I possessed of household furniture were disposed of by public auction, and my two horses (saddle and draft) were purchased by friends. 

“Upon the 11th two large government boats having been dispatched from Sydney by the Master Attendant of the dockyard for the conveyance of my collections and baggage to the “Forth”, the whole were sent off in charge of my servant.* 

* Among them were eight large plant cabins, containing choice collections of living plants from Moreton Bay, Norfolk Island, Illawarra and the Blue Mountains; two cases of terrestrial Orchideae, containing the roots of thirty-two species of that beautiful family, six cases of seeds, specimens of wood, &c. &c.

On the following day, I gave up the possession of my cottage [Macquarie Street Parramatta] and premises which I had held during the last eight years, and having no further employment for a native lad who had been in my service from the period of my return from Norfolk Island, I discharged him. Whilst my government servant, (a prisoner for life) [probably Simon Mahony/Meney, 26 years of age, transported for life, arrived on the “Cambridge” in 1827], was, by permission of the superintendent of convicts, transferred, for, the time being, to the employ of a friend, until government should grant him a ticket of leave, for which indulgence I [p126] had very strongly recommended him, in consideration of the intelligence and general activity which he had uniformly manifested in a service of more than four years and a half with me, in which period he had accompanied me on journeys in the interior, as also to Norfolk Island, and in my more fortunate and much more interesting voyages in 1828 and 1829 to Moreton Bay.*

* This was far from a solitary instance of Mr. Cunningham’s rewarding a deserving convict servant; his journals shew numerous recommendations of the people he had under his charge, on all occasions when they had served him diligently and faithfully on his distant journeyings.

“It now remained for me to bid adieu to several old friends in Parramatta, whose kind offices I can no more forget than attempt to eradicate from my memory in afterlife, the recollection of the very many agreeable periods I have spent in that quiet town, the centrical situation of which, at a convenient distance from the bustling seaport, with which it commands both land and water communication, proved on all occasions so extremely favourable to my pursuits. 

“I now left Parramatta and, accompanied by a friend, reached Sydney in the afternoon, where I learnt that the departure of the ship was postponed until the 16th. This gave me more time to settle certain matters of business in Sydney, as also to call on several friends living at this port, and among them was Mr. Macleay our worthy Colonial Secretary, whom I accompanied to his retreat on the shores of Elizabeth Bay where I was not a little delighted to find so much had been done in planting and improving the sterile ground amidst high sandstone rocks since I visited the Bay last year.

Some last minute botanical treasures are collected 1831

“Among the very interesting assemblage of rare native plants, (indigenous to Moreton Bay, Port Macquarie, Norfolk Island, &c.), which have, through the medium of the colonial government vessels, been brought together in this garden, where they were growing with the utmost luxuriance, I observed a liliaceous plant, originally discovered by Mr. Brown on our intertropical shores during the “Investigator’s” voyage. This novelty, the Calostemma album of that very able botanist, which I sought for in vain during my several voyages [p127] with Captain King, was sent from Melville Island on the north coast, where, I was informed, it was found in low situations in the vicinity of the settlement established there in 1824. As there were several plants of it in the garden, where it periodically puts forth its small white flowers, Mr. Macleay presented me with four bulbs for Kew, so that the royal gardens will soon boast of possessing a fourth species of this genus, so nearly related to Pancratium. The one I discovered some years ago on the Brisbane River at Moreton Bay, which also throws up, for the most part, a single elliptically oblong leaf and white flowers from its root, differing from it in the shape of the sterile teeth of the corona.*

* The Moreton Bay plant here alluded to, on flowering and perfecting its seed vessel, was ascertained to be a species of Eurycles, and is figured under the name of E. Cunninghamii, in the Bot. Reg. t. 1506, and Bot. Mag. t. 3399, where also is described another Australian species discovered by Mr. Cunningham, in 1820. Calostemma luteum, Bot. Mag. t. 2101, Bot. Reg. t. 421, was discovered by Mr. Cunningham in 1817, while with Oxley’s expedition on the Lachlan River, as was also Mr. Brown’s C. purpureum. Bot. Mag. t. 2100, Bot. Reg. t. 422.

Goodbye Governor Darling 1831

“Our vessel, which was now ready for sea, had hauled out into the stream, preparatory to her quitting the port altogether, which the Captain hoped to do at daylight on the 17th. I therefore waited upon the Governor [Governor Darling] and Mr. Macleay for the last time, and taking leave of all my friends, joined the other passengers on board in the evening. 


“The ship was now dropped down to the Heads, but as the wind blew fresh from the southeast, it was deemed advisable again to bring to off Watson’s Bay. During the period we lay at anchor, just within the port, we were repeatedly on shore, and in one of my walks over the small but beautiful estate near South Head, called Vaucluse I was exceedingly gratified to find a plant of Orchideae, many years ago discovered and described by Mr. Brown, which, however, I never but once during fourteen years’ residence had the good fortune to meet with: it was that excellent botanist’s Neottia australis [now Spiranthes australis], which like others of the genus, had the flowers of the spike spirally disposed. Among the grasses of a lawn, [p128] I found a small group of the plants richly in flower, and as I had not previously had the opportunity to send to Kew this rare species, I was the more happy and careful to possess myself of the whole of them to add to that selection I have made at this season of this most interesting family.

Goodbye Port Jackson

“On the 25th [February 1831], the wind having become sufficiently favourable to enable us to make an offing, we bid adieu to the colony, and stood out to sea.”