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Part I

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No. 1: Grevillea robusta,

A. Cunn

The Silky Oak

(Natural Order PROTEACEÆ.)

Botanical description

— Genus, Grevillea, R.Br.

Flowers. — Hermaphrodite.

Corolla note. — Irregular or regular, the tube revolute or curved under the limb or straight and slender, the limb globular or rarely ovoid, usually oblique, the laminae usually cohering long after the tube has opened.

Anthers. — All perfect, ovate, sessile in the base of the concave laminea, the connective not produced beyond the cells.

Hypogynous glands. — United in a single semi-annular or semi-circular gland occupying the upper (often the shortest) side of the torus or rarely completely annular surrounding the ovary, or altogether wanting.

Ovary. — Stipitate or rarely sessile, with two amphitropous ovules laterally attached about the middle.

Style. — Filiform, or somewhat dilated, usually long and protruding from the slit on the lower side of the perianth tube before the summit is set free from the limb, ultimately straightened and erect, or in a few species of Lissostyles and Conogyne remaining hooked; more or less dilated at the end into a straight oblique or lateral cone or disk bearing the small stigma in the centre of the disk or at the summit of the cone.

Fruit. — A follicle, usually oblique with the ventral suture curved, either coriaceous and opening along the upper margin, or rarely woody and opening almost or quite in two valves.

Seeds. — One or two, flat orbicular or oblong bordered all round by a membranous wing or narrowly winged at the end or outer margin only or entirely wingless. Hard shrubs or trees.

Leaves. — Alternate, very diversified in shape.

Flowers. — In pairs along the rhachis of a short and umbel-like or elongated raceme, rarely reduced to a single pair; the racemes either terminal or also axillary, rarely all axillary. The indumentum. usually consists of closely appressed hairs attached by the centre, rarely of erect or spreading hairs, and then usually forked at the base or clustered.

(B.Fl., v. 417.)

The genus Grevillea is a very large one, approaching 200 species. It is almost peculiar to Australia, seven or eight species occurring in New Caledonia. It includes many beautiful flowering plants; occurs in the dry interior and the moist coast districts. Most of the species are small shrubs. G. robusta is the largest of the genus.

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Botanical description

— species, G. robusta. — A. Cunn., in R.Br., Prot., Nov. 24.

A tree sometimes small and slender, sometimes robust and 80 to 100 feet high, the young branches hoary or ferruginous-tomentose.

Leaves. — Pinnate with about eleven to twelve pinnatifid pinnae, the secondary lobes or segments entire or again lobed, lanceolate or rarely linear, often above 1 inch long, the margins recurved, glabrous above or sprinkled with appressed hairs and obscurely veined; silky underneath, the whole leaf 6 to 8 inches long and nearly as broad.

Racemes. — Secund, 3 to 4 inches long, solitary or several together on very short leafless branches on the old wood.

Pedicels. — Slender, about half inch long, glabrous as well as the rhachis. Corolla glabrous outside and in, the tube nearly 3 lines long, scarcely dilated at the base, revolute under the ovoid limb.

Torus. — Slightly oblique.

Gland. — Prominent, semi-annular.

Ovary. — Glabrous, stipitate.

Style. — Long.

Stigmatic disk. — Somewhat oblique, with a central cone.

Fruit. — Broad, very oblique, 8 or 9 lines long.

Seeds. — Winged all round.

(B.Fl., v. 459)

Botanical Name

— Grevillea. — Robert Brown, in his Prodromus Floræ Novæ-Hollandiæ, dedicates the genus to "Caroli Francisci Greville, viri omnibus titulis nobilis, rei naturalis Mineralogiæ præcipue et Botanices docti cultoris et patroni." This was the Right Hon. C. F. Greville, an active patron of botany at the beginning of the 19th Century. I have quoted the original dedication, because Pritzel and some other authors say the genus was named in honour of Robert Kaye Greville, author of well-known works on Cryptogams. Personally, I hope the genus will keep the memory green of both good men. Robusta (Latin), strong and firm, in allusion to the size of this species, unusual for a Grevillea.

Vernacular Name

— Hooker (Bot. Mag., t. 3184) says: "From its deeply dissected foliage and the silkiness of the underside, it has obtained the name of `Silk Oak' among the pine-cutters of Moreton Bay." When split on the quarter this timber shows a handsome oak-like grain, the prefix "silky" being either because of the silky underside of the leaves, or on account of the bright appearance of the freshly split wood. Hooker's statement, written in 1832, may be the true explanation of why the name was originally applied. On the northern rivers I have known it to be called "White Silky Oak" and "Black Silky Oak," though I have not been able to clearly understand the difference.

Aboriginal Names

— It was formerlly called "Warra-garria" by the aborigines of the Richmond and Clarence Rivers., and "Tuggan-tuggan" by those of Southern Queensland (W. Pettigrew), "Koomkabang" of those of Bundaberg, Queensland (Keys).

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— G. umbratica, A. Cunn. (Meissner in De Candolle's Prodromus, XIV, 381)


— The graceful fern-like foliage of this plant causes it to be cultivated as a pot plant for table adornment. In Ceylon the tree is much planted, and the Tropical Agriculturist says:—

We have just heard from a mid-Dimbula planter of Grevillea leaves being used as a substitute for paddy straw, as a bedding for cattle, sheep, pigs, and even for horses. The trees are lopped up, the branches carried to the store, where the leaves speedily drop off and are used for bedding for cattle, etc., with satisfactory results, especially in an economical point of view.

With us the tree is semi-deciduous.

Bentham points out that under cultivation the leaf is sometimes a foot long, almost tripinnate, with numerous pinnæ and narrow acute segments.

Tassi, in Bull. Lab. ed Orlo Botanico di Siena, Fasc. 2-3, Tay. XI, 1, 2, depicts sections of a leaf and petiole.


— The tree bears a profusion of orange-yellow flowers which, like those of most members of the Natural Order to which it belongs, are rich in honey, and hence are sought after by bees. They add greatly to the ornamental character of the tree which, in full bloom, is a striking object.


— This is sufficiently described by the plate. The winged seeds are very light, are suddenly released from the follicle, and are blown away by the wind. As the trees are a considerable height it is not always easy to collect the seed just as it ripens, and hence it is always expensive.


— Its chief characteristic is its fissility. It is light in colour, and has a handsome oak-like figure.

Although distinctly a pretty wood, yet on account of its lightness of colour it has not the same rich appearance as many proteaceous timbers. It is moderately hard, and works well. Two well-seasoned slabs of this wood have weights which correspond to 38 lb. 14 oz. and 36 lb. 2 oz. respectively per cubic foot. In the Sydney Mint experiments, 1860, the specific gravity is given at 564, equivalent to a weight of 35 lb. 4 oz. per cubic foot.

Gamble, Manual of Indian Timbers, page 318, describes an Indian grown specimen in the following words:—

Grevillea robusta has a rough bark, 3-16th inch thick. Wood hard, light reddish brown, sapwood greyish white. Pores moderate sized, scanty, in concentric patches of white tissue. These concentric patches are interrupted by the medullary rays, and bend outward where they meet the rays, so that the concentric bands have a wavy outline. Medullary rays broad and very broad, very prominent on the radial section, showing a beautiful silver grain. The heart-wood seems durable, but the sap-wood decays quickly. It would be a handsome furniture wood.

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Perhaps the New South Wales timber which has been spoken of more than any other for wine casks is the silky oak. Mr. Thomas Hardy of South Australia, placed shavings of this wood in light wines for two months without affecting the taste and colour of the latter. He pronounces the wood suitable in other respects, and therefore suitable for casking wine, and the opinion of an authority so eminent must carry great weight. Silky oak would not leak when split on the quarter, and Mr. Hardy has been instituting inquiry as to whether the staves would leak when the wood was cut across the grain. Silky oak appears too porous to hold such liquids as spirits.

Formerly it was used to a large extent on the northern rivers of our own State, and still in Northern Queensland, for tallow casks. It has also been largely used for butter-kegs. It does not appear to be affected by long immersion in brine, nor does butter placed in contact with it for any reasonable period acquire any appreciable taste of the wood. For all these purposes it must be cut or sawn on the quarter, to avoid leakage or soakage. In the old days, before the advent of galvanised iron, it was almost exclusively used in the Northern districts for milkbuckets and dairy utensils, for which purpose it gave great satisfaction. The extension of the use of butter-boxes is causing butter-kegs to be superseded, and therefore increased attention should be given to the utilisation of this timber for dairy appliances of various kinds, e.g., hands, pats, and rammers for butter. If our timber merchants would study the special requirements of butter factories and firms and companies which deal wholesale in or export this important commodity, they would find that it would be to their advantage.

Its pretty grain renders it a suitable wood for certain picture frames, and Mr. R. D. Hay suggests that it is specially suitable for engravings and photographs.

Now that Grevillea robusta is getting scarce, I would like to draw public attention to what I believe to be a perfect substitute for it. The commonest tree in the Dorrigo Forest Reserve is one known to botanists as Orites excelsa, and its wood usually passes as silky oak. I examined the timber carefully in the forest, and brought a few pieces to Sydney. Everybody I have shown them to pronounces them to be silky oak. At the present time, if there is any difference between the Orites excelsa timber and that of Grevillea robusta, I do not know what it is, and it is evidently not of a superficial character. I was pleased to make this discovery, as there is a perfect mine of the silky oak in the Dorrigo. There are millions upon millions of feet of it, and at present not a stick is used. But even if it be not used for wine casks, the time will come when it will be used for butter or tallow casks, or for some other humbler yet useful purpose.

The Dorrigo is not the only place on the northern rivers, by any means, in which this second silky oak can be abundantly obtained. The difficulty in the way hitherto has been the cost of carriage, but roads into these places are being gradually opened up.

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The following is an extract from the Tropical Agriculturist of Ceylon:—

But we were greatly interested in a stable door composed of fine planks of a Grevillea tree, certainly not more than sixteen years old (if that), which had been cut down and converted into timber. Made into the door when freshly sawn, this valuable wood had subsequently seasoned without in the least warping. Such being his experience we were not surprised to learn that the owner intended to cut down some of the older Grevillea trees which can be spared from the large number at Lorne, to be converted into floor boards.


— For an account of a gum-resin from this well-known tree see Fleury.note Maidennote shows that the silky oak belongs to the small list of trees that exude both a gum and a resin. Lauterernote also gives an account of the resin. A research on the interesting exudation from this well-known species is a desideratum.

The substance was exhibited in the New South Wales Court, Paris Exhibition, 1867.

The following are some notes on the exudation by Mr. W. Baeuerlen, who collected it for me on the northern rivers:— "When quite fresh and soft it is of a peculiar yellow colour, but on hardening it assumes something of a flesh or wine colour. It has an extremely disagreeable smell. . . . The local opinion is that there is more gum during very rainy weather than during drier times. The country people look upon it as a nuisance, as it sticks to the horses' manes when they rub themselves against the tree."

A few years ago a Sydney timber merchant sent to me a quantity of material which was found in the middle of a log of silky which "looked like whiting," and oak he was cutting up. Earthy-looking deposits in timber are rare. hence it was subjected to chemical examination.note Mr. Smith continued the researchnote by examining, the sap, collected as fresh as it was possible to obtain it, logs being cut into short lengths and allowed to drain into a receptacle. He detected butyric acid in the sap, which substance does not appear to have been previously found in the sap of any tree. The succinic acid contained in the solid substance described in the former paper was probably derived from the natural oxidation of butyric acid.

Mr. R. D. Hay informs me that in the Dorrigo the Carabeen (Sloanea Woollsii, F.v.M.) is disliked by the sawmillers, because of a deposit (locally known as "flint") in the log, near the heart, which injures the saw. This deposit resembles lime in appearance, is clipped by a knife with difficulty, and has not yet been subjected to chemical analysis.

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We know so little about the accumulation of “earthy” matter in the stems of trees that the following information in regard to such substances in Indian timbers is valuable.

Presumably the lime must be taken up in solution by the roots in large quantities, and then deposited in the manner described.

Some white marks on the cut stump of an Asan tree (Terminalia tomentosa, W. and A.) caught my eye, and these on examination proved to be sections or laminae of calcareous matter, which alternated with the ordinary rings of woody growth. How this calcareous matter found its way into such a position it is difficult to say; but its occurrence is, perhaps, not more singular than that of silica in the joints of bamboos, where, as is well known, it sometimes forms what is called "tabasheer." The rocks about were gneisses and schists, and I could discover nothing in the soil to account for the peculiarity.

About a year previously, or in April, 1870, the fact of the occurrence of calcareous masses in timber had been brought to the notice of the Asiatic Society of Bengal by Mr. R. V. Stoney, who stated that many trees in the Orissa Tributary Mehals have pieces of limestone (or calcareous tufa) in fissures in them ; but principally Asan (Terminalia tomentosa, W. and A.), Swarm (Zizphus rugosa, Lam.?) Sissu (Dalbergia sissu, Roxb.), and Abnus (Diospyros melanoxylon, Roxb.). In some cases, irregular-shaped pieces, 7 inches long by 2 inches thick, were met with in the trunks at a height of about 6 feet from the ground. By the natives the lime is burnt, and used for chewing with pawn. On examination it was found that there was no structure in these masses which would justify a conclusion that they had been formed by insects. Some included portions of decayed wood seemed to be cemented to ether by the lime. Though I have not had an opportunity of consulting many botanists on the subject, I believe it to be the case that the occurrence of deposits of carbonate of lime in timber has not been met with elsewhere. Oxalate of lime is sometimes met with in vegetable tissues; but in the form of carbonate, I am informed, however, that there is no record case of lime have been found, and such also appears to have been the opinion of the late Dr. Kurz. (J. Ball in Nature, xxi, 376)

Following is information supplemetary to the preceding:—

That Terminalia tomentosa contains calcareous matter has been known to natives, and a reference to Tennent's "Ceylon," i, 99, will show that they make a practical use of their knowledge by using the ashes of the bark as the substitute for lime, to chew with betel. Another southern tree which contains an alkali in its bark is Avicennia tomentosa. Again, as regards Mr. Stoney's observation of calcareous masses in timber, which was brought to the notice of the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1870 as a fresh discovery, it seems strange that the learned body in question did not know that the existence of such concretions, so far as from being very rare, is an occasional and well-known phenomenon. Thus, in the Madras Journal of Literature and Science for April-September, 1858, page 142, Prof. Mayer gives a qualitative analysis of the concretion of the kind found in a teak log. It consisted chiefly of magnesia, with potash, lime, silica, and a trace of iron. The substance, he says, must be looked on as a mixture, and not a true chemical compound." Again, he observes, "as a whole the substance thus hardened is insoluble in cold, and but slightly so in water of higher temperature. At 212 deg., however, there is sensible action after a time. In diluted hydrochloric acid solubility ensues, hastened by increased temperature. Solution is attended by a slight effervescence, some carbonic acid being liberated." He then proceeds to give an explanation of the process by which such mineral matters may be taken up from the soil and deposited in the tree. So far as I know the occurrence of such concretions in India was first brought to notice by Lieutenant, now Colonel Hawkes, of the Madras Army, in 1858. He had seen them only in teak logs, and remarked that they generally occur "in what carpenters call a shake in the wood, but with this exception the logs are perfectly sound, and no communication whatever with the external air has been observed." (G. Bidie, Madras, Nature, xxii, 169)


— It rarely attains a height of more than 60 feet to 80 feet, and a stem diameter of more than 2 feet or 3 feet. But its sapwood is small and there is little waste. Given even moderately favourable conditions it is a very rapid grower, at all events for the first few years. I do not think it is a long-lived tree, at all events as regards cultivated specimens, usually exhibiting signs of senile decay after fifty years.

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— In the brush forests of the Clarence River northwards up to Northern Queensland, but not extending many miles back from the coast.

Under cultivation not only in our own State, but in other parts of the world, it has shown that it is drought-resistant to an extent that would hardly be supposed from consideration of the localities with ample rainfall in which it is indigenous. This affords an illustration of the fact that in acclimatisation experiments one must not adhere too slavishly to the climate and soil conditions of a plant in its original habitat.

The Tropical Agriculturist states that, “certainly for beauty of foliage, for tenacity of vitality lit scarcely ever fails in planting), for fair rapidity of growth and value of timber at a comparatively early age, it is one of the most valuable gifts which Australia has bestowed on Ceylon. It flourishes from sea level to 6,000 feet, and we do not wonder at its popularity and wide diffusion. If a Casuarina or a Frenela is allowed to grow somewhat big in the nursery it almost infallibly dies when planted out, while the Grevillea flourishes equally as a seedling, a well-grown plant, or as a stump.

The faith felt in the beneficial influence of Grevilleas planted along with tea especially, continues to gather strength among Ceylon planters. These trees afford shelter from the wind, supply an ample litter with fallen leaves, and the roots penetrate and open up what is often a hard subsoil.”

For notes in its growth in Jamaica, see the Bulletin of the Botanical Department of Jamaica.


— From seed, which readily germinates. This tree has been recommended for street-planting. Its semi-deciduous character is against it for that purppose according to some ideas, but it is a tree concerning which any other fault can scarcely be found. Its fern-like foliage is of great beauty, while the tree is hardy if allowed the shelter of other trees.


Plate 1: The Silky Oak (Grevillea Robusta, A. Cunn.). Lithograph by M. Flockton

  • A. Flower-bud.
  • B. Expanded flower.
    • a. Corolla.
    • b. Ovary, which is stipitate.
    • c. Style.
  • C. Petal (Bentham's perianth-lobe), with sessile anther.
  • D. Stigma.
  • E. Pedicel with ovary, the corolla removed.
    • a. Pedicel.
    • b. Stipitate ovary.
    • c. Semiannular disc.
  • F. Follicles showing the dehiscence.
  • G. Seed, winged all round.

Footnotes to Issue No. 1

Supplementary Material Added at the End of Volume 2

No. 1. Part 1.

Grevillea robusta, A. Cunn.


(Natural Order PROTEACEÆ.)

Timber. — See vol. i, p. 3.

Writing to the Tropical Agriculturist (Colombo) of 1st August, 1902, p. 124, Mr. R. Maclure gives certain particulars as to the value of this Australian tree in Ceylon, where it is largely planted. He says:-

I reckon a Grevillea tree at 15 years old is worth 3 rupees 40 cents in ordinary soil, less in poorer soil, and much more in richer soil, such as they have in some parts of Dimbula.

There is then the value of the Grevillea tree -

1. For timber and firewood.

2. To improve the soil it takes frorn the subsoil, arid adds to the surface soil by the deposit of leaves.

3. This deposit riot only adds to the soil, but prevents wash arid the growth of weeds.

4. As a wind-belt in exposed places.

5. To diversify the cultivation. We were told, when leaf-disease attacked arid ruined our coffee, that, in planting it up, as we did, in one unbroken sheet, with no trees or belts of timber interspersed, we transgressed the laws of nature, and suffered in consequence. We were careful to avoid this mistake when planting tea.

Exudations. — See vol. i, p. 5.

Mr. H. G. Smith has shown, (Aluminium, the chief inorganic element in a Proteaceous tree, and the occurrence of Aluminium succinate in trees of this species. — Proc. Roy. Soc. N.S.W., xxxvii, 107, 1903) I think conclusively, that the earthy concretion attributed by me to Grevillea robusta really comes from Orites excelsa, a second Silky Oak timber which appears to be identical (as stated at vol. i, p. 4) with that of Grevillea robusta.

Leichhardt mentions that a drooping Grevillea (in the Northern Territory) exudes a glutinous secretion from its seed-vessels, which stains the skin black, and raises most painful blisters. It is not likely that the species is G. robusta, but in view of the general innocuousness of Grevillea, it is interesting to draw attention to Leichhardt's observation.

Habitat. — See vol. i, p. 7.

The most southerly locality known to me is Little River, near. Dalmorton, Grafton-Glen Innes Road. — (J.H.M. and J. L. Boorman.) It occurs also at Acacia Creek, Macpherson Range, New South Wales. — (Forest Guard W. Dunn.)

As regards Queensland, in the "Catalogue of Timbers in the Forestry Museum" (Brisbane, 1904), we have the note:-

Rather a limited quantity near the coast on creek sides in Southern Queensland. Another Silky Oak (Cardwellia sublimis), in many respects similar to this as regards characteristics arid uses, is plentiful in the scrubs north of Cardwell.

Supplementary Material Added To Volume 4

No. 1. Part I. See also vol. ii, p. 183.

Grevillea robusta, A. Cunn. THE SILKY OAK. (Family PIELOTEACEÆ.)


Grevillea robusta, Tree in the Botanic Gardens, Sydney. The tree is semi-deciduous, and the photograph shows it in that condition. — (Government Printer, photo.)

Supplementary Material Subsequently Published at the End of Volume 5

In Part XX (vol. ii), p. 183, I drew attention to Leichhardt's observation of the acrid secretion from the seed-vessels of a Grevillea in the Northern Territory.

Dr. E. Mjoberg, the leader of the Swedish Scientific Expedition of 1910–11 to north-west Australia, informed me that the sap of two species of Grevillea is used by the natives to scarify their bodies, forming the sears they deem to be ornamental.

Following is an extract from a letter from Mr. Fellows, Curator of the Public Gardens, Albury, N.S.W. —

I have a man working here, who, whenever he has to work much in the trees of Grevillea robusta, gets inflammation of the eyelids; have you met with a similar case, or can you account for it in any way? No other tree causes him this inconvenience. I have asked our doctors about it, but none can account for it. By working in the trees I mean in the top of the tree, lopping or thinning out branches of the older trees. The sap is the trouble. We have some of these trees in the streets in this town; the trees make good growth here.

I have not heard of Grevillea robusta in this connection before. It is far better known as a planted tree (both in Australia and out of it) than in its native forests, and I would ask correspondents whether they have heard of its acridity.

I would invite attention to what I have said in regard to Irritant Woods in Part xlix, p. 174 of the present work.

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No. 2: Ficus rubiginosa,


The Rusty Fig

(Natural Order URTICACEAE.)

Botanical description

— Genus, Ficus, Linn.

Flowers. — Unisexual, minute, enclosed in a hollow globular ovoid or pear-shaped receptacle called a fig or synoecium; the minute orifice enclosed by bracts turned inwards, or the first rows erect outwards.

Male flowers. — Usually near the mouth of the receptacle, very rarely in separate receptacles, and often very few.

Perianth. — Of three to six lobes or segments, imbricate in the bud, rarely reduced to a single one.

Stamens. — One, two, or rarely more, opposite the perianth segments; anthers two-celled or the cells confluent at the apex.

Female perianth. — Usually with narrower segments than the male, and very much reduced or almost none.

Styles. — Usually lateral, at least after the growth of the ovary, filiform. with a terminal peltate, oblique or elongated and with unilateral stigma, sometimes unequally two-branched in species not Australian.

Ovule. — Pendulous or laterally attached near the top.

Fruiting receptacle. — Usually enlarged, but remaining closed, the small seed-like nuts surrounded by the membraneous or succulent persistent perianth.

Embryo. — Curved in a fleshy albumen,- usually rather scanty. Trees or shrubs with the juice usually milky.

Leaves. — Alternate or opposite, entire or lobed, penniveined, and usually more or less distinctly three-nerved at the base.

Stipules. — Usually very deciduous, convolute on the young buds.

Receptacles. — Usually in pairs or solitary by the abortion of one of each pair, either axillary or on the old wood, and then often forming clusters or racemes on short leafless branchlets.

Bracts. — Usually three, often small and scale-like, either at the base of the receptacle or along the pedicel below it. Bracts within the receptacle subtending the flowers usually very numerous, varying with the perianth in consistence and colour, those Dear the orifice of the receptacle usually rather larger, without flowers, and closing the orifice, the outermost rows sometimes exserted and erect, but usually horizontal and inflexed, those subtending the flowers sometimes very minute or replaced by hairs or setae or obsolete.

Male flowers. — Usually fewer than the females, and in the upper part of the receptacle, sometimes numerous and intermixed with the females or in separate receptacles. (B.Fl., vi. 160)

  ― 9 ―

Botanical description

— Species, F. rubiginosa, Desf., Vent., Jard., Malm., t. 114.

A tree of considerable size, with spreading branches, throwing out woody roots, which descend to the ground, forming pillars as in the Indian Banyan Treenote (F. indica), the young shoots and petioles more or less ferruginous pubescent.

Leaves. — On petioles of 1/2 inch to 1 inch, oval or elliptical, obtuse or very shortly and obtusely acuminate, entire, rounded or very slightly cordate at the base, 3 to 4 inches long, and 2 to 2 1/2 broad when full grown, coriaceous, glabrous above, more or less ferruginous-pubescent underneath, with numerous parallel very divergent primary veins, of which ten to twelve on each side of the mid-rib are rather more prominent than the others, and the basal pair more oblique.

Stipules. — Narrow-acuminate.

Receptacles. — Axillary, mostly in pairs, on thick broadly terminate peduncles of 1 line or rather more, globular, about 4 or 5 lines in diameter, usually marked with prominent warts.

Subtending bracts. — Broad, membraneous, about 2 lines in diameter, very deciduous.

Male flowers. — Intermixed with the females.note

Bracts. — Acuminate, brown as well as the perianths.

Anther-cells. — Confluent at the apex into a single reniform cell, and at length very divergent so as to appear to open transversely.

Stigma. — Linear and acute, not very long. (B.Fl., vi. 168).

Botanical Name

— Ficus, Latin, a fig or fig-tree; rubiginosa, Latin, rusty.

Vernacular Names

— "Port Jackson Fig," "Illawarra Fig," from the best known localities. "Rusty Fig," because of the ferruginous appearance of the young shoots, &c. "Native Banyan," "Narrow-leaved Fig," "Small-leaved Fig," in comparison with the " Large-leaved Fig" (F. macrophylla).

Aboriginal Names

— "Dthaaman" of the Port Jackson aborigines. The late Sir William Macarthur, in his catalogue of exhibits for the London Exhibition of 1862, gives the name "Baira" to the "Small-leaved Fig" and "Warrauka" to the "Smallest-leaved Fig." Both aboriginal names probably refer to this species, but the tribes who used the names are not mentioned, and the "Baira" is simply referred to as "another giant of the cedar brushes," and "Warrauka," as "the largest tree of the cedar brushes." "Pingy" of the Fort Curtis (Queensland) blacks (C. Hedley).


— F. australis, Willd., Sp., Pl. iv, 1138.

Urostigma rubiginosum, Gaspar, Nov. Gen., Fie. 7, quoted in his Ricerch. Caprif., 82, t. 7, 6 to 13.

By nurserymen this tree is commonly known as F. australis.

  ― 10 ―
The species is very largely cultivated in New South Wales, and the plants display a considerable amount of variation. For example, there is an entirely glabrous form in the Sydney Botanic Gardens, which has been labelled F. lucida for many years. I can find no authority for this name, and it should be called F. rubiginosa, Desf., var. lucida, Hort. Syd.


— The Moreton Bay Fig (F. macrophylla, Desf.) is an excellent fodder plant, cattle and horses eating the leaves, young twigs and figs with great zest. For further particulars, see Agricultural Gazette, 1893, page 609, and 1894, page 206.

The Small-leaved Fig (F. rubiginosa, Desf.) is less used for this purpose, probably because it is less frequently planted, but it appears to be of equal value as a fodder plant, and doubtless other of our native figs may be put to similar uses. I have known cows fed all the year round on leaves and figs which dropped from these trees.


— The structure of the inflorescence of Ficus can be ascertained by the student by reference to most text-books in which the common edible fig (Ficus Carica) is dealt with. There are excellent figures, for example, in Kerner and Oliver, ii, 157. Those who have the opportunity should refer to Sir George King's magnificent work on "The species of Ficus of the Indo-Malayan and Chinese countries," in the Annals of the Royal Botanical Garden, Calcutta. The flowers of F. ribiginosa are depicted on. our plate.


— At page 8 Bentham calls the fruit of a fig a Synoecium, Kerner and Oliver a Synconium, Prantl and Vines and Warming and Potter a Synconus. The "Fig" consists of the fleshy axis of the inflorescence, which is deeply concave, and on the inner surface of which. the minute flowers (which later on develop into achenes or "seeds" ), are borne. The cavity at the end of the fig farthest away from the stalk is enclosed by small bracts. The name Receptacle seems to be as descriptive and as convenient as any to apply to the "Fig." The fruits of F. rubiginosa, which are full of seed, were an article of food of the Port Jackson natives, but the early colonists found them 'very nauseous." Mr. C. Hedley states that they are eaten by the Port Curtis (Q.) blacks.


— The fibre of the root of this tree is of great durability, and is used by the aborigines in the fabrication of their scoop fishing-nets. The inner bark forms a loose fabric taken off carefully. A similar fibre is produced, and more abundantly, by F. macrophylla.


— This and other figs in our northern forests have plank-like or buttress-like expansions of the stem, near the root, which are sometimes as deep as

  ― 11 ―
horse-stalls. The following description of certain trees ill the Malay Archipelago will directly apply to our fig:—

Others, again, and these are very characteristic, send out towards the base flat and wing-like projections. These projections are thin slabs radiating from the main trunk, from which they stand out like buttresses of a Gothic cathedral. They rise to various heights on the tree, from 5 or 6 to 20 or 30 feet. They often divide as they approach the ground, and sometimes twist and curve along the surface for a considerable distance, forming elevated and greatly compressed roots. These buttresses are sometimes so large that the spaces between them, if roofed over, would form huts capable of containing several persons. Their use is evidently to give the tree an extended base, and to assist the subterranean roots in maintaining in an erect position so lofty a column, crowned by a broad and massive head of branches and foliage. — ("Tropical Nature and other Essays," Wallace, page. 31)


— The timber is soft, brittle, and spongy; it is, however, sometimes used for packing-cases. It is light in colour as well as in weight, and although sometimes it shows a pretty grain, it would be waste of labour to spend much time upon it. A well-seasoned slab of this wood had a weight which corresponds to 28 lb. 8 oz. per cubic foot.


— This fig, like others of the genus, exudes a juice when the bark is wounded. It is neither a gum or a resin, but belongs to what may be called the "India-rubber Group." It consists of a dried milky juice or latex (of which examples are afforded by other natural orders common enough in Australia, e.g., Euphorbiaceæ and Asclepiadaceæ). For information in regard to the physiology of the subject see the text-books, such as Botany, by Sachs (Vines), pp. 85, 94, &c. It is put to no useful purpose as regards our native species. It has formed the subject of De la Rue's and Muller's chemical investigation.note

The official catalogue of New South Wales exhibits (Paris, 1855) contains the following information in regard to this particular specimen:—

Perforated waxy substance, exuded from the bark of the native fig, Ficus ferruginea (an obsolete name, and the substance is attributed by Sir William Macarthur to F. rubiginosa), exhibited by W. Stephenson, Esq., surgeon, from the Manning River. A remarkable substance, possessing the properties of gutta-percha and bird-lime combined, and which can be obtained in the Colony in any quantity. It softens by heat like gutta-percha, and like that substance can be moulded into any shape while warm, which it retains when cold, but becomes brittle. When very hot it is so strongly adhesive that it cannot be touched by anything without sticking most obstinately to it.

Mr. P. L. Simmonds said of the specimen:—

An elastic gum-resin from an Australian Ficus was shown at the Paris Exhibition of 1855 in the New South Wales collection, in small tears of a dingy appearance, which might prove useful. A large portion dissolves in warm linseed oil, but spirits of wine does not act readily upon it. By mastication it becomes tenacious, and bleaches thoroughly.

From the above and from statements in the original paper, there is no doubt that the substance acted upon was picked already dried from the trees, and, on

  ― 12 ―
account of the delay in experimenting upon it, it was a very old specimen when analysed. I procured a small quantity of the milky juice (latex) of this species, and obtained it quite fresh. It was obtained in the spring by auger holes well through the bark. Whether a tree will yield ally liquid at a particular time is uncertain, and can be ascertained only by tapping. It apparently ill no way differs from the Moreton Bay fig juice (F. macrophylla), so familiar to the people of New South Wales. It was of the consistency and colour of thick cream and perfectly homogenous when freshly exuded. It gradually separates in two layersa creamy or grey-coloured portion and a brown liquid of hardly higher specific gravity than water. Both layers continue to darken in colour. Analysis of this milky juice, completed within a month of exudation, remains a desideratum. A specimen I sent to Professor E. H. Rennie, of Adelaide, was examined by him and Mr. Goyder.note

The following letternote was written at my instigation to the Director of the Royal Gardens at Kew, by the Minister for Mines and Agriculture:—

You are aware that ever since the paper of Warren de la Rue and Hugo Muller (Phil. Trans., 1860; Journ. Chem. Soc., 1862, p. 62 ; Watts' Dict., ii, 646) spasmodic attempts have been made to extract the caoutchouc which is contained in the juices of our native figs, notably F. rubiginosa and F. macrophylla. The latest and most serious attempt to ascertain the chemical composition of these juices is a paper by Professor Rennie and G. Goyder, entitled, "The Resins of Ficus rubiginosa and F. macrophylla." (Preliminary Notice); Journ. Chem. Soc., lxi, 916.

In order to satisfactorily ascertain whether extraction of the caoutchouc from these fig-tree juices can be profitably carried on in New South Wales, I am anxious to learn of the most approved method of dealing with juices of this class. I have read with interest the following articles in the Kew Bulletin:—

(a) Lagos Rubber (Ficus Vogelii, Miq.); November, 1888, p. 253.

(b) West African Rubbers; March, 1889, p. 63.

(c) Lagos Rubber; May, 1890, p. 89.

These all refer to Ficus juices, and it is perhaps a fair inference that our trees should be dealt with similarly to the West African ones, and that the resulting products are similar.

I gather from the above reports that the experiments of Mr. Alvan Millson at Lagos, in the matter of extraction of the India-rubber (caoutchouc) from the Ficus juices, are not altogether satisfactory, and some friendly criticism was given by the India-rubber, Gutta-percha and Telegraph Works Company of Silvertown (page 258, November, 1888). But neither in this nor in subsequent issues of the Kew Bulletin do I find explicitly stated what is the method recommended for the treatment of the Ficus juice. At certain seasons of the year the juice (latex) of our native figs flows freely and abundantly if the tree be cut with an axe. This juice could be readily collected in kerosene tins. I shall be glad if you will kindly inform me how this juice should bp treated, and in what quantity, and in what condition, should the sample be that I sent to London, with the view of obtaining expert opinion in regard to the probable commercial value of the article.

By this post I send you a specimen of Ficus juice, and also one of crude caoutchouc "obtained by evaporation," by a correspondent of this Department. They are small specimens, and I have not broken the seal since I have received them, as fermentation may be set up. I do not know whether they will be of any assistance to you in giving me the advice I ask for, as I presume you will require to see the caoutchouc prepared according to the method you will suggest; meantime any information will be much appreciated.

  ― 13 ―
The following is an extract from the reply of the Director:—

The problem which the Department of Mines and Agriculture has before it is precisely similar to that which baffled the Government of Lagos in the case of Ficus Vogelii, and I am in possession of no further information upon it. There is no general method known for separating the caoutchouc from the "milk " in which it is mechanically suspended. The methods in practical use vary in different countries and with different kinds of trees from which the milk is drawn. Samples of milk have been repeatedly sent to this country for further investigation of the problem-How best to produce "coagulation"? But this can only be advantageously studied on "fresh samples." When they reach this country they have ordinarily undergone so much alteration that no practical results are attainable.

The following is an extract from the report of the India-rubber, Gutta-percha, and Telegraph Works Company of Silvertown, on the samples enclosed in the Minister's letter to the Director of Kew:—

No. 1 was contained in a wide-mouthed bottle, and was in the form of a solid; a sample we return as requested. It yielded about 7 per cent. of the substance closely resembling india-rubber, and about 73 per cent. resin. It is probably of no use as a source of india-rubber.

No. 2 came to hand in the form of a milky liquid, and yielded, after being evaporated to dryness, 7 per cent. of a substance similar to caoutchouc and 89 per cent. of resins. We send you a sample of the dried juice. This was simply evaporated in a dry vessel without heat, which would be the best way of obtaining it, should it be hereafter found to have a commercial value.

We also send samples of the resins extracted by alcohol.

In the above report we have not been able to give you an estimate of the value of these materials, as it is impossible to do so with such small samples ; we should require at least 28 lb. of each.

Experiments at the Hamma Garden near Algiers, to obtain a coagulable latex from F. macrophylla have been abandoned, only negative results having been obtained. (Rev. des Cult. Coloniales, 20th September, 1901, page 188.) F. rubiginosa yields a similar juice, and it seems to me that it is waste of time and money to further attempt to obtain india-rubber, on a commercial scale, from either of the trees in question.

I am of opinion that the Asiatic Ficus elastica is the only species of fig which, if planted in the warmer coast districts of New South Wales, promises to be commercially important as a source of india-rubber in this State.


— Everyone has noticed the long, slender, aerial roots that hang from the branches, and which are more abundant and robust in warm, moist localities. In Lord Howe Island a fig looked upon by some botanists as specifically identical with our Port Jackson fig is called the banyan, as its aerial roots descend to the ground and form secondary stems, just as in the case of the well-known banyan of India.

On the Northern rivers these fig-trees often begin life on the moist bark of another tree, and their aerial root system attains great development. It is a common thing to see a huge tree being completely enveloped in the aerial roots of a fig, which finally smother the host tree out of existence so completely that it would not be known that the fig is taking the position of another unless the process of strangling had been observed.

  ― 14 ―
Even in colder New England Mr. A. R. Crawford noticed trees sending down aerial roots 30 feet distant from the main stem, some nearer forming new stems, others 30 feet in height descending along, Angophora stems, enclosing and suffocating them.


— Planted trees as ordinarily seen are not large; but in its native forests this species way attain a great size, up to 100 and even 150 feet. and with a trunk diameter of 6 feet and more. There are some fine specimens near Dapto; but it attains its greatest dimensions on the Northern rivers.


— Chiefly in the coastal districts, but extending as far west as near Narrabri, Tamworth, and Jenolan Caves. Northerly its extends into Queensland, southerly to Bateman's Bay; but its range in that direction is not defined. Westerly we require more localities before we can define its "curving boundary."


— Readily from seed. In the brushes it originates as an epiphyte upon some tree, and as it grows it envelops its host, and finally destroys it with its plastic, spreading trunk and roots.


Plate 2: The Rusty Fig (Ficus rubiginosa, Desf.). Lithograph by M. Flockton

  • A. Gall flower.
  • B. Female flower.
  • C. Male flower.
  • D. A receptacle (fig).
  • E. Longitudinal section of the same.

Footnotes to Issue No. 2

Supplementary Material Added at the End of Volume 2

No. 2. Part 1.

Ficus rubiginosa, Desf.


(Natural Order URTICACEÆ.)

Roots. — See vol. i, p. 13.

Mr. Robert Kaleski, of Mountain Top, Dorrigo, sends the following note on this tree, from his own experience in the Dorrigo:-

Is at first a parasite, seed being dropped by birds into the tops of other trees, generally Rosewood (Dysoxylon Lessertianum) or Nettle (Laportea gigas). As the seed grows it sends out feelers, which grow downwards till they reach the ground, where they root. The feelers then attach themselves to the trunk of the tree they grew from and lace themselves on it till they completely cover it, and thus kill it and become a tree themselves. Height and girth same as Rosewood. Timber, soft and practically useless; good burner.

In quoting the passage which follows, the compiler of an English work on plants adds the footnote at the end:-

This statement needs confirmation. We are not aware that the Ficus is a parasite.

As it is, therefore, obvious that some English botanists are not aware of this phenomenon, so common in tropical and sub-tropical countries, it seems desirable to emphasise it.

The same fierce struggle for existence is well exemplified in the Mora trees (Mora excelsa) of Guiana, of which Waterton has left an impressive picture:-

The Wild Fig-tree (Ficus), as large as a common English apple-tree, often rears itself from one of the thick branches of the Mora, and when its fruit is ripe, to it the birds resort for nourishment. It was to an undigested seed passing through the body of this bird, which had perched on the Mora, that the fig-tree owed its elevated station there. The sap of the Mora raised it into full bearing.


1. Photograph of a fig-tree of this species, Dapto, Illawarra, 56 miles south of Sydney. (Kerry and Co., photo.)

2. Drawing, by Mr.W. Tibbits, of a fig-tree of this species, parasitic on a large Eucalyptus tree, 8-mile post, Casino-Coraki Road. In process of time the fig-tree will entirely cover up the Eucalyptus tree, already dead

Supplementary Material Added To Volume 4

No. 2. Part I. See also vol. ii, p. 184.

Ficus rubiginosa, Desf. THE RUSTY FIG. (Family URTICACEÆ.)

See my Paper on Figs in the Agricultural Gazette of N.S.W. for October, 1908.


(a)Ficus rubiginosa, Desf. THE RUSTY FIG: Tree in the Botanic Gardens, Sydney. — (Government Printer, photo.)

(b) A Giant Fig-tree at Wingham, Manning River. — (Judge Docker, photo.)

(c) Fig-tree, Wingham, Manning River. — (F. A. Kirton, photo.)

(d) "Small-leaved Fig," 164 feet high, 81 feet in girth 4 feet from ground, and can be seen from a great distance. Rous, Richmond River. — (H. T. Blanch, photo.)

  ― 15 ―

No. 3: Syncarpia laurifolia,


The Turpentine-tree

(Natural Order MYRTACEAE.)

Botanical description

— Genus, Syncarpia,Ten.note

Calyx-tube. — Turbinate or campanulate, adnate to the ovary at the base, the free part erect or dilated; lobes four or rarely five, persistent.

Petals. — Four or rarely five, spreading.

Stamens. — Indefinite, free, in one or two series, sometimes interrupted between the petals, filaments filiform; anthers versatile, cells parallel, opening longitudinally.

Ovary. — Inferior, flat-topped or convex, scarcely depressed round the style, two or three celled, with one or several ovules in each cells; erect on a basal placenta.

Style. — Filiform, with a small stigma.

Capsule. — Included in and adnate to the calyx-tube, opening loculicidally in two or three valves.

Seeds. — Linear-cuneate, testa thin, embryo straight, cotyledons plano-convex, longer than the radicle.

Leaves. — Opposite, penniveined.

Flowers. — In dense globular heads, either solitary on axillary peduncles or forming terminal panicles. (B.Fl., iii, 265)

Botanical description

— Species, S. laurifolia, Ten. in Mem. Soc. Ital. Sc. Modena, xxii, t. 1.

A large tree, the young shoots and underside of the leaves more or less hoary pubescent or glaucous.

Leaves. — Appearing sometimes in -whorls of four, from two pairs being close together, from broadly ovate, to elliptical-oblong, obtuse or obtusely acuminate, glabrous above, 2 to 3 inches long, on petioles of 1/4 to 1/2 inch.

Flowers. — White, united, six to ten together in globular heads, on peduncles of 3/4 to 1 inch at the base of the new shoots, with two to four bracts close under the head, either short and scalelike or leaf-like, and exceeding the flowers,

Calyces. — Connate at the base, the free parts broadly campanulate, softly hoary-pubescent, 1 to 1 1/2 lines long, lobes short, broad and obtuse.

Petals. — Broadly ovate or orbicular, about 1 1/2 lines long.

Stamens. — Three to four lines long, in about two rows round a flat disc fully 3 lines in diameter.

Ovary. — Flat-topped, tomentose, three-celled, with rather numerous ovules in each cell, erect on an oblong placenta.

Fruiting heads. — about 1/2 inch in diameter, the calyces connate to about the middle. (B. Fl., iii. 265)

Bentham recognises a variety, glabra, "Quite glabrous, even the calyx. Flowers rather small. Hastings River."

  ― 16 ―

Botanical Name

— Syncarpia, indirectly from two Greek works, sun, together, and karpos, a fruit, in allusion to the heads of fruits which have their calyces joined or grown together (connate). This may readily be seen from the figure.

Vernacular Name

— "Turpentine-tree." It is so-called because of the resinous exudation which flows from between the bark and the wood when the timber is cut into. It is an unfortunate name, as it suggests inflammability, and turpentine is one of the most uninflammable of timbers. In some districts the fresh red-coloured turpentine is called "red-turpentine " to distinguish it from the chocolate or dark-brown coloured timber known as "black turpentine." They are the same timber, the latter either being over-matured, or suffering from incipient decay. In the Gosford district the name "silky turpentine" is applied by timbergetters to turpentines in which the bark is thinner and stringy, and the wood comparatively light in colour when freshly cut.

Turpentine timber has scarcely any odour, but I have known of perfectly well-authenticated instances in which men, insisting that turpentine timber is so-called because of an odour of turpentine, were obliged by accommodating timbergetters who sprinkled their logs with turpentine prior to inspection.

Aboriginal Names

— The tree was called Booreeah by the Illawarra blacks (Macarthur), Burra Murra by those of the Ulladulla district (Forester Allan), and Killa Warra by the Brisbane Water blacks, according to the late Sir William Macarthur; "Pearbbie" of those of Frazer's Island (Queensland).


— Metrosideros glomulifera, Sm., in. Trans. Linn. Soc., iii, 269.

Tristania albens, A. Cunn., in Bot. Reg. under n. 1839; DC., Prod., iii, 210.

Kamptzia albens, Nees., in Nov. Act. Nat. Cur., xviii, Suppl., Praef., 9, t. 1.

Metrosideros procera and M. propinqua, Salisb., Prod., 351 ?

The distinction between the genera Syncarpia and Metrosideros is so important, as a matter of classification, that I propose to clearly state the case.

Turning to Bentham and Hooker's Genera Plantarum, vol. i, p. 694, we have—

Syncarpia. — Flores in capitula globosa pedunculata conferti v. coaliti. Stamina libera. Ovula 1 – oo, erecta.

Metrosideros. — Stamina libera, exserta. Ovula oo- seriata, horizontalia v. ascendentia, placentam dense obtegentia.

  ― 17 ―
Syncarpia is, in the above work, confined to the two species S. laurifolia, and S. leplopetala, which are, however, very different from each other, as will be seen from the following extract:—

"S.laurifolia (Specie normali), Calyces connati, ovarium 3-loculare, loculis multi-ovutalis.

"S. leptopetala, Calyces liberi et ovarium 2-loculare, loculis 1-ovulatis." (Op. cit., i, 709.)

Syncarpia laurifolia is the only true Syncarpia, (according to the meaning of the word). S. leptopetala was united with this genus before its fruits were known, and left under this genus in the Genera Plantarum and Nat. Pflanzen-Familien. The latter work followed Bentham in the Order Myrtaceæ apparently uncritically.

Mueller abolished the genus Syncarpia altogether, and unites both with Metrosideros.

Bailey retains Syncarpia leptopetala under that genus, and adds a third species, Syncarpia Hillii, which is a true Syncarpia.

In my opinion, Syncarpia laurifolia and leplopetala should not be kept under the same genus; either Syncarpia should be confined in New South Wales to laurifolia, and leptopetala united with Metrosideros, or both should be united with Metrosideros and Syncarpia reduced to a section of it.

The view I take is to retain the name Syncarpia laurifolia for the turpentine tree, and to place Syncarpia leptopetala, under Metrosideros.

Following is Banks' original definition of Metrosideros. I then give Sir J. E. Smith's comments on the species, and description of M. glomulifera. Smith's original specimens and also those of Salisbury's M. procera and M. propinqua were all collected by David Burton.note

Neither work being readily accessible, it will be convenient to many to have the extracts in question.

Metrosideros. — "Calyx monophyllus, quinquedentatus. Cor. pentapetala. Stam. numerosa, discreta, Calyci inserta. Styl. unicus. Capsula calycis ventre corticata, infra floris receptaculum posita, tri – l, quadrilocularis. Semina immatura numerosissima, lineari-paleacea; matura paucissima, rotundata aut angulata." (Banks, in Gaertner de Fructibus, i, 170, 1788)

Metrosideros. — Banks, mss. Gaertn., sem., t. 34, f. 2. Leptospermum, Forst., Gen., 36, t. 36, f, a – e and m – t. Icosandria monogynia, after Fabricia. Char. Gen-Calyx, 5-sidus, semisuperus, petala 5. Stamina longissima, exserta. Stigma simplex. Capsula 3-vel 4 locularis.

That this is a most distinct natural genus from Leptospermum as above defined there can be no doubt, though some great botanists have united them. Sir Joseph Banks, however, and Dr. Solander were well aware of their difference, and characterised Metrosideros by its very long stamina. The stigma being simple and small, not capitate or depressed, scarcely dilated, I beg leave to propose as a very certain

  ― 18 ―
and constant mark of distinction. The habit, moreover, is totally different from Leptospermum, and agrees with that of Melaleuca; at least this is the case with such species as have alternate leaves, and those with opposite ones have no resemblance to Leptospermum.

The petals are concave, nearly sessile, deciduous, generally less coloured than the stamina. The capsule has most generally three valves, and as many cells, rarely four. I believe it might safely be defined trilocularis absolutely, but I have mentioned the number four in deference to Gaertner until I can determine and examine all his species, which are very obscure. His gummifera is an Eucalyptus, and some of his others are very doubtful. The species of this genus, described as Melaleuca by the younger Linnaeus, and Dr. G. Forster, are also much confused, these authors having mutually misunderstood each other so often and formed their definitions so loosely, that, with most of their original-named specimens before me, I can hardly clear up every doubt, nor can I at present determine how many of Forster's species are among Gaertner's.

M. glomifera, foliis oppositis, ovatis, reticulate-venosis subtus pubescentibus, capitulis lateralibus pedunculatis, bracteisque, tomentosis.

Gathered near Port Jackson by Mr. David Burton. It is a tree with round opposite branches. Leaves opposite, on shortish downy footstalks, ovate, entire, a little waved, reticulated with numerous veins, clothed with short soft down on the underside. Flowers greenish-yellow, clustered in little globular heads, which stand on simple downy footstalks about an inch long, growing laterally (mostly opposite to each other), just above the insertion of the uppermost leafstalks and contrary to them. Each head of flowers is accompanied by a pair of oblong downy bractae, and the calyx is also downy.

This species is but slightly aromatic. It is said to be very rare. (Smith in Trans. Linn. Soc., iii, 269, 1797.)

Metrosideros is from two Greek words, metra, the heart of a tree, and sideros, iron, in allusion to the hardness of the timber. Glomulifera, from glomulus (Latin), a little round heap, in allusion to the flowers and fruit-heads.


— Somewhat laurel-like, as the specific name denotes. The underside of a dirty white, often with small black patches, caused by a minute fungus.


— White, and in small round balls, consisting of a number of individual flowers joined together by their calyces.


— Hard and woody, and containing abundance of the brown dustlike seed, which sheds as soon as the fruits get dry. On the fruit are often seen globules of the so-called "turpentine."


— The bark is of a flaky, fibrous character, and often of a considerable thickness. It is of a brown colour. In large trees it has a furrowed appearance. The bark of our turpentine-tree does not appear to be put to any useful purpose,note but the Hon. W. Pettigrew states that the bark of the Peebeen (S. Hillii) is used by the natives of Wide Bay (Queensland) for the purpose of making canoes.


— In colour it is usually dull red, but it varies to brown or purplebrown. It has a neat and perhaps characteristic grain. Mr. Augustus Rudder says : — " I believe that this timber might be used to advantage in cabinet work, as some of it is handsome, and takes a good polish, and only, I believe, requires proper treatment to make it more highly esteemed for many purposes." It has been successfully used by local billiard-table manufacturers for table-legs.

  ― 19 ―
It is said to be comparatively soft and brittle, but perhaps there is some mistake in this, as I have always found it to be as hard as the average myrtaceous timbers, and it is not brittle when the sap-wood is removed. In Professor Warren's work on Australian Timbers there are a number of tests of the strength of this timber.

Like many other myrtaceous timbers, such as myrtles, turpentine is very liable to rend in drying. It also warps when much exposed, unless seasoned with unusual care; this is a drawback to its use for uprights in buildings. In the Jurors' Reports, London International Exhibition of 1862, it is stated to be "the best wood for railway sleepers." At the present day, however, it is never knowingly used for such a purpose, its tendency to warp and rend being against it. Mr. Rudder, however, states that its tendency to warp as sawn stuff is "entirely obviated by a few weeks' soakage in water, and I have seen it after this treatment free from cracks. It steams remarkably well, so much so, that I have observed stout planking successfully turned edgeways at an angle of over 30 degrees."

It is very abundant, as its chief utilisation at the present time is for piles and hewn posts and rails, since saw-millers dislike it exceedingly, as it rapidly dulls their saws. It would be very desirable to subject it to proper microscopic examination; possibly this might throw light upon this property of turpentine. It is not easy to burn, except with a good draught. In such situations as pillars, girders, &c., in buildings it usually only chars, and is in consequence easily extinguished — a very useful property in buildings. I was informed that, in a very large fire in Sydney, surprise was expressed that the building was not gutted, for the wooden girders and joists were put to a very severe test. It was believed that the girders were ironbark, and they were so specified, but the contractor substituted turpentine without anyone being any the wiser. This pious fraud was, however, the means of minimising the destructive effects of the fire. It is very resistant to white ant, but it must be remembered that no timber is absolutely white-ant proof, as white ants, if put to it, will probably eat any timber on the face of the globe. To sum up, its chief recommendation is its durability, resisting decay in the ground, whether from white ant or other causes, while it is one of the best timbers we have for resisting marine borers, especially if the bark be intact. It is very difficult to burn, a great recommendation to its use in buildings. It will thus be seen that the properties of turpentine, those at least which give it its value, are mostly of a negative character.

Its principal use is, besides those indicated in the foregoing paragraphs, as a second-class timber for wood-paving.

At this place I give the substance of a report on this timber, particularly with reference to its resistance to Cobra (Teredo) made by Mr. J. V. de Coque and myself, and ordered by the Legislative Assembly to be printed on the 29th October, 1895.

  ― 20 ―


We visited the Hawkesbury district in December, 1894, and in March last. The local timber suppliers distinguish two turpentine timbers (botanically identical) in this district, viz. : — The swamp turpentine, growing on the flats, and also the hill turpentine, which latter they consider the better timber of tile two in point of durability.

In June-July of this year we made most careful investigations at all the timber centres between Hexham and Kempsey, interviewing the timber suppliers, owners of saw-mills, and residents of the different districts, inspecting several bridges and jetties where turpentine timber was in use, visiting the various forests containing turpentine timber, and having several trees felled for our inspection.

The evidence we obtained from many of the leading timber suppliers is of a most conflicting nature, rendering our task of sifting it no easy one. As the bulk of the piles and girders of turpentine used in public works is supplied from the districts we traversed, we deemed it advisable to make every effort to arrive at a satisfactory solution of the following important points:—

1st.Does the true turpentine resist the attacks of cobra when used in piles, girders, &c., in public works?

2nd. Are there two varieties of turpentine timber, one cobra-resisting, the other not ?

3rd. Have any other timbers been substituted for turpentine timber and used for piles, &c.?

We propose herewith to submit notes on various points connected with the turpentine question and, at the close of our report, to submit our recommendations and findings.

II. — Characteristics of Turpentine Timber.

The following notes may be convenient: — Turpentine is, for a hardwood, soft when green, but hard when dry. It is of a sandy or gritty nature, rapidly dulling the saws — hence saw-millers do not like it.

It splits and shrinks badly in sawn sizes free from bark, unless some attention is given to seasoning it.

It is very durable when placed in the ground, and a great recommendation for many purposes is the difficulty of burning it.

An illustrated article on the subject will be found in the Agricultural Gazette for July, 1894, so that it may not be necessary to amplify the above particulars.

III. 7mdash; Black and Red Turpentine.

At a very early stage of our inquiry we found it necessary to clearly understand what are the differences between black and red turpentine. The terms are not used in all parts of the Colony, the word "turpentine" being simply employed in some places. No one whom we questioned knew what differences in the trees corresponded to differences in the colour and appearance of the timber, although two different kinds of turpentine were recognised readily enough in most districts.

Black turpentine was originally so called to distinguish it from white turpentine, an old name of tallow-wood, a name which still lingers in the Port Stephens district amongst the old hands.

We felled turpentines growing a few yards from each other. The timber of small, youngish trees is of a fresh, sound, light red colour, and the timber is known as red turpentine, while the timber of the very old and large trees is of various shades of dark red up to purple brown, chocolate, and nearly black ; this is black turpentine. There is no botanical difference between them; they simply present, in our opinion, different stages of growth or maturity of the same timber. We look upon black turpentine as over-matured timber, and perhaps in some cases the product of trees which have been injured, or whose growth has been interfered with in some way. We look upon red turpentine as timber thoroughly sound and full of life. In the Port Macquarie district we found it recognised that the bark of red turpentine is tougher, and the oleo-resin far more abundant than in the black.

Black turpentine is usually used for punt-bottoms, because of its size; red turpentine for piles.note

  ― 21 ―

IV. — Miscellaneous Notes on Turpentine, chiefly obtained on the Northern Rivers.

The following notes on turpentine, with especial reference to its powers of resistance to cobra, will be found interesting, although somewhat contradictory : —

Turpentine is excellent for the bottoms of punts ; it is put in green, and coppered. (Mr. Breckenridge, Failford.)

Mr. J. Wright, Tuncurry, prefers red turpentine to black. Turpentine piles at Mr. Wright's wharf have been eaten off by cobra in ten and a half years.

Mr. Miles, Forster, says that the black turpentine is more cobra-resistant than the red turpentine.

The wharf at Ghinni Ghinni, on the Manning River, built about four years ago, has the turpentine piles now nearly eaten through. These piles were obtained from Sandy Creek, about 3 miles north-west of Wingham. The timber-getter who procured these piles states: — "I have also used turpentine timber that was got on the Lower Manning to build a punt with, and it did not resist the cobra."

Mr. Walters, of Coopernook, writes: — " I know you are aware there are two kinds of turpentine, viz., red and black; both kinds are used in Sydney Harbour. I say the black is 50 per cent. before the red for piles, and yet the Department uses both kinds, and does not make any objection to contractors using the red kind as well as the black."

Mr. Walters further states that black turpentine is difficult to cut, and ruins the saws. He will have nothing to do with it, while red turpentine readily cuts-cuts like cheese. Mr. Walters coppers his punts.

The following correspondence and notes in regard to red and black turpentine are interesting: — Messrs. Mackay and Bibby, of the Laurieton Steam Sawmills, write to Mr. Forester Brown of Port Macquarie : — " In reply to your inquiry as to why some piles said to be turpentine are fairly free from cobra, whilst others are riddled with them, the matter is, I think, easily explained. There are two distinct kinds of turpentine, viz., red and black, and as I have used both I am in a position to say positively that black turpentine for piles is practically useless, and the cobra will attack it freely, whilst red turpentine will resist cobra for years, and very rarely enter further than the sap. These facts have come under my personal observation during the last twelve years. I find also that red mahogany and tallow-wood are good woods in the water, but of course not equal to turpentine." In conversation with us Mr. Mackay stated that, black turpentine should always be discarded, as it has not a quarter the life of the other."

The same gentleman looks upon black turpentine as an abnormal or diseased state of red turpentine.

Mr. Johnston, of Wauchope Sawmill, states that he built a steam-punt (the "Maori") for logs for Messrs. Mackay and Bibby, of Lauricton, the flat bottom of forest turpentine (Syncarpia laurifolia). He called it 11 black turpentine." He saw the timber growing himself; got it under North Brother Mountain at Laurieton. The punt has been cleaned every year, and has lasted now eleven years free from cobra. Also that there had been no borer in it up to five years in use.

To this statement Mr. Mackay replies: — I cannot tell you the difference between the black and the red wood either by the leaves or bark; but I am sure Mr. Johnston is mistaken about the black turpentine being used in the steam punt he built so long ago. That punt is still at work, and was on our slip last Christmas, and the planks were apparently as good as when they were first built. I am sure that the black turpentine is not what we get for planking and piles."

Mr. Laurie agrees with Mr. Mackay that the red timber is the better — has more oleo-resin.

The life of turpentine piles was stated to us to be ten years at Laurieton. We saw turpentine piles at Laurieton saw-mills down five years. They had been only superficially injured then. At the same time we were informed that turpentine is hardly more durable than many other timbers if the bark be stripped. Coppering is the only cure.

Red turpentine is not only used here for piles, but also for punt bottoms, which are painted with copper paint about every twelve months. (Mackay.)

We observed that the standing-ways for the punt slip at Lauricton wore quite sound after having been down seven years. They are of red turpentine.

  ― 22 ―
We were subsequently informed that Rogers' punt, at Laurieton, which was built about eleven years, and has the bottom cleaned sometimes once or twice a year, was riddled with cobra. The bottom was not painted. We did not see this punt.

There is any quantity of turpentine in the Laurieton district, but it is rarely cut, as it dulls the saws.

Mr. Cain, timber merchant, of Wauchope, Hastings River, writes to Mr. Forester Brown: — " There are two kinds of turpentine-one grows in the brushes and has a very long stringy bark and very red timber, and the other grows out on the clear, and has a very thin scaly bark, and the timber is very dark inside. I cannot tell you, for certain, which is the timber that the cobra riddles. I have been asked the question by ——, but I think it is the turpentine that grows on the clear that the cobra will eat, but I am not certain."

At Port Macquarie we made careful inquiries at Hibbard & Son's Mill, in company with Mr. Forester Brown, and Mr. Hibbard, jun., spared no pains to give us information.

Here the punts for up-river work are made of 2 1/2-inch turpentine planking, covered with tar and felt. Below this a sheath of 1-inch turpentine planking is placed to take off chafing, and to, avoid the cost of coppering, The inch planking is stripped off about every seven years. The punts go into fresh water, but remain there a few hours at the most. The inch planking is cleaned from barnacles about every two years.

The punt slip at Hibbard's wharf consists of red turpentine and has been down fifteen years. It has gone below high-water mark. Between high and low water it is practically intact. It is partly covered with tallow-wood, which has been eaten away to about the same extent as the turpentine. Mr. Hibbard is of opinion that turpentine is undoubtedly the most cobra-resistant timber we have.

Rudders for droghers are made by Mr. Hibbard out of turpentine, showing that people have a leaning towards the timber.

It is all red turpentine at Port Macquarie. black turpentine is never used. A timber-getter here (Mr. Kilmorey, senior) says that "the turpentine, cut from swampy or moist land, is very soft to cut, has a thin bark, resin runs out like native honey, and that bees do not swarm to it when felled like they do to that which grows in the forest."

The fender piles of Greenhills Wharf, West Kempsey, are eaten off between high and low water. They are of squared turpentine. The other piles are of ironbark, coppered. This wharf marks our northernmost limit, this trip.

The Government jetty at Coff's Harbour was stated to have been over twelve months building, and before it was finished, the turpentine piles first driven were stated to have been attacked by cobra.

Mr. G. Harriott says "that the 'Byron Bay' wharf piles, of forest turpentine, were riddled with cobra in a few years, and adds, that turpentine growing in the brushes smell stronger (when cut into) of turpentine than the other." As regards the turpentine piles at Byron Bay, we attach a copy of a letter written by Mr. C. W. Darley, late Engineer-in-Chief for Harbours and Rivers, to the Forest Department, and forwarded for our information. It not only shows that Mr. Harriott's statement must be considerably modified, but gives additional information of a valuable character.

"Two pieces of pile, recently taken from the Byron Bay jetty-one cut at low water and the other at 5 feet below low water-show how well turpentine will resist the Teredo novalis (cobra) in sea water. The pile from which the specimens were taken was driven about eight years ago. From them it can be clearly seen that while the Teredo attack, and to a great extent destroy, the sap-wood, they fail to touch the red heart-wood. They also show that the Teredo are not nearly so active a little distance below low water as they are at low water. Experiences teaches me that it is only in pure salt water that the worm avoids the heart-wood of turpentine, for in rivers where fresh water is in excess of the salt water the Teredo will penetrate the same wood rapidly. It is a question, however, whether the worm is really the same, and steps are now being taken (October, 1894) to test this question."

V. — The Bark of Turpentine.

It has been stated that cobra never goes through the bark, or rather the bark, plus the layer of oleo-resin, which is reputed to be the great protector of the timber against cobra. Mr. Laurie, of Laurieton,

  ― 23 ―
says that the bark of any timber, even gum, gives increased resistance to cobra; in fact, that every tree will resist the pest more or less, provided the bark be intact. He is of opinion that turpentine is still the best, though it is far from being absolutely resistant.

Local opinion at Port Macquarie is in favour of turpentine, mahogany, and ironbark for piles, so long as the bark remains sound.

At the same time, on the Macleay River, we found turpentine piles, bark or no bark, destroyed by cobra in five years.

Mr. Forester M'Donald, of Kempsey, looks upon turpentine as only effective so long as the bark is intact, He would prefer other timbers-ironbark, for example, and preferably old seasoned, ringbarked timber-to turpentine for piles.

Mortise holes, which cut through the bark of a turpentine pile, are a common cause of mischief, allowing cobra free access into the timber.

Mr. Sydney Verge, of Kempsey, draws attention to the fenders on coppered piles, by means of which cobra can get up into the pile by a circuitous route. This seems to us a matter worthy of attention,' for cobra, like white ants for timber and sugar ants for saccharine delicacies, will find out the weak spots in the defences by an instinct that never fails.

And now we come to a very important matter.

We are satisfied that if round piles of turpentine are driven in cobra-infested waters, with bark attached and uninjured, they will resist the attacks of cobra for a period largely dependent on the bark remaining intact and closely adherent, but, at the same time, we deem it practically impossible to procure and drive any number of turpentine piles without injuring the bark more or less, and the smallest injury to the bark of the timber renders it more vulnerable to cobra. When the manner of procuring piles And conveying them to the work for which they are intended is taken into consideration, it is easy to see they cannot escape injury to their bark even under the most favourable considerations, viz., when the sap of the trees is down, and the bark consequently closely adherent to the log. The falling of the trees in the first instance, the hauling and spare chaining to the waggons, the friction of the waggon chains in road transit to the water's edge, the rough handling they receive in loading and unloading on vessels, and lastly, the action of the pile monkey in driving the piles to their required depth, cannot fail to more or less injure and separate the bark.

In the course of our investigations we saw turpentine piles, intended for Government wharves, with strips of bark torn off from end to end, and in some stacks we could not find a single log whose bark was intact. So that if the adherence of bark to the log is to be made a condition of contract, it should be enforced, and not dealt with as if it were a matter of slight consequence.

VI. — Cobra and Turpentine.

Cobra is the common name (it is an aboriginal name, see Backhouse, "Narrative of a Visit," &c., p. 366) by which certain bivalve molluscs belonging to the genus Teredo, and included in the family Pholadidæ are usually known. Teredo navalis is one of the most common and destructive species. It is generally about a foot in length, but sometimes grows over 2 feet 6 inches. Fourteen species of Teredo are known, some occurring at low water, some being found at a depth of 100 fathoms. They are very widely distributed, occurring from the coast of Norway to the tropics.

In addition to cobra, what are known as "borers" often do a good deal of damage to piles and timber-work below tide mark. Those found by us at Port Macquarie are isopods, belonging to the genus Sphæroma, the members of which are distributed all over the world.

We believe that no timber has absolute power of resistance to cobra. That being our conclusion, it remains a matter for consideration to what extent the lives of timbers (turpentine or others) may be prolonged. At Cundletown wharf, on the Manning River, where there is a Government punt-slip, and where Mr. Kenny repairs punts, boats, &c., under the direction of Mr. F. W. Baker, the Engineer for Roads of the district, we found pieces of turpentine a mass of cobra-turpentine logs, a repulsive mass

  ― 24 ―
of writhing cobra — the logs now consisting of very much more animal than vegetable matter. Prickly tea-treenote logs were also in a similar condition. Tallow-wood is here considered to be the most resistant timber to cobra.

Prickly tea-tree is considered at Kempsey to resist cobra better than turpentine, and at Laurieton we were shown small piles for a boat-wharf made of prickly tea-tree which had been down fifteen years, and which were quite sound. What the particular local conditions wore in these cases we do not know, but, while we readily admit the high resistant power of prickly tea-tree, we frequently observed it riddled by cobra.

Anywhere within the influence of the tides on our coastal rivers and creeks, timber is attacked by cobra, and there is the most abundant and most convincing evidence that cobra is more injurious in tidal waters than in pure salt water.

In the northern rivers of this Colony, a reason why the effects of the cobra are so disastrous is doubtless because of the increased warmth of the water, which favours the growth of the pest.

The following appear to us militate against the growth of cobra

1. Pure salt water.

2. Fresh water.

3. Foulness of water.

Mr. C. W. Darley (late Engineer of Harbours and River.) writes to the Forest Department: — "In pure sea water I have reason to believe that the redwood of turpentine will resist the Teredo for many years (I can speak for twenty years at least), but when there is some fresh water mixed with the salt water, as up rivers, I find the worm will go through and destroy turpentine piles within a year in some cases."

Piles are more or less attacked in pure salt water, as witness the case of the piles at Cofrs Harbour, Wallis Lake, &c. While cobra may flourish in clean sea water, the case of piles in the polluted waters of parts of Sydney Harbour is not a fair test of the resistance of timber to cobra.

A punt working in salt water may subsequently pass over muddy flats, which scrape off everything. The punt is all right in fresh water, in which cobra cannot, of course, live — hence the variation in the, reports in regard to the resistance of turpentine to cobra. In examining specific instances of reputed resistance to cobra, we often find the circumstances ~ery complex, and we are often without sufficient data to compare them.note

VII.-Turpentine Substitutes.

It occurred to us that perhaps the different reports as to the durability of turpentine might, in a measure, be owing to the substitution of some other timber ; accordingly throughout the trip we kept this matter under notice.

We found on inspection of forests the true turpentine (Syncarpia laurifolia), also the brush or bastard turpentine (Rhodamnia trinervia) growing side by side, the latter bearing, in the Hawkesbury district, a strong resemblance to the former in colour of timber and bark. In no other part of the Colony visited by us have we seen the resemblance so strong. The leaf of the brush turpentine is readily known by its three prominent veins or nerves.

As, however, but a very small proportion of the turpentine timber used in public works in the Colony has come from this district, and finding no evidence to show that the brush turpentine was in use as a substitute for turpentine, also that it rarely if ever attains pile size among the northern rivers, we do not now attach much importance to the matter.

Brush turpentine in the Port Stephens and Manning River districts never seems to attain any size, but always accompanies true turpentine.

  ― 25 ―
In the Port Macquarie district brush turpentine has the bark much like that of red mahogany, and could not easily be mistaken for turpentine. Mr. J. M'Inerney has seen red mahogany with a bark, resembling that of true turpentine; this is particularly the case with timbers of pile size. It is sometimes sent down for that timber, and gets riddled very quickly by cobra.

The bark of turpentine is tough as compared with brush turpentine. The blacks have the same name for the two trees. Mr. Booth would as soon have red mahogany as turpentine for piles.

There is no brush turpentine large enough for piles in the places where the turpentine piles are obtained in the Port Macquarie district. It is quite possible that young tallow-woods, and even young stringybarks or white mahoganies, might occasionally be substituted for turpentine through ignorance, but the mistake would easily be rectified by any judge of timber.

We do not think that any wilful attempt has been made in the past to substitute other hardwoods in lieu of turpentine for piles, &c. In point of fact turpentine timber is so plentiful throughout the Colony that there is little or no inducement to unprincipled timber suppliers to substitute any other timber for it.

VIII. — Summary of Findings and Recommendations. To the 1st Question, — Does the true turpentine resist the attacks of cobra when used in piles girders, &c., and in public works?

Our answer is that turpentine is not an absolute resistant to cobra, either in pure salt water or in tidal waters, whether the bark is on or not. The turpentine will resist the cobra as well, or better, than any other hardwood, providing the bark remains uninjured.

That cobra is much more active in attacking turpentine in tidal wafers, where salt and fresh water mix, than in pure salt water.

To the 2nd Question, — Are there two varieties of turpentine timber, one cobra-resisting, the other not?

Our answer is, that there are two turpentines of the same species, called the black and the red, but, although frequently no sufficiently sharp line of demarcation exists between the two timbers for us to single one variety for special commendation, we would prefer typically red turpentine. There is also a brush turpentine, whose botanical name is Rhodamnia trinervia, somewhat similar to true turpentine, but we found no evidence to show that it had been substituted for true turpentine, and we failed to find any inducement to timber-getters to do so.

To the 3rd Question, — Have any other timbers been substituted for turpentine and used for piles, &c.?

Our answer is, that we found no evidence that such is the case. Further, we failed to find any inducement to suppliers to do so, as turpentine is very plentiful in the coast districts. We recommend,-

(a) That in pure salt water, in special instances where it is known that cobra is not very active, also in very foul salt water, such as around Pyrmont and Glebe Island bridges, the use of turpentine piles be continued, providing they are driven with their bark attached and uninjured. In cases of outside piles, exposed to the friction of the sides of vessels, some protection or guard should be adopted to prevent damage to the bark of the piles.

(b) That where turpentine piles are specified to be with the bark on, the condition should be rigorously enforced, piles found to show defect in the bark below high-water mark being condemned as unfit for use.

(c) That turpentine piles be, as far as possible, felled when the sap is down,. and the bark closely adheres to the log.

(d) That in unpolluted tidal waters, turpentine piles be protected by metal sheathing.

Speaking more generally, and taking into consideration the fact that turpentine is not absolutely resistant to cobra, and the very great expense the Department of Public Works is annually put to in replacing cobra-infested timber, we recommend that for the future the use of turpentine timber, either

  ― 26 ―
with or without bark, or in squared or sawn sizes, when placed in any position in which cobra is known to be active, should be discontinued in the public works of this Colony, unless it is absolutely protected throughout its entire face and ends by copper or some other equally satisfactory protective covering.

We would recommend the sheathing of turpentine piles, without any exception whatever, if the question of expense did not stand in the way, and the only exceptions we recommend are those of piles on the coast and in parts of Sydney Harbour, as already stated.

The cost of coppering piles, or rather the increase of the practice of coppering piles, will at once claim attention ; but we would observe that the expense of the piles themselves is not the only consideration. If they are eaten through, the superstructure may have to be replaced, perhaps at a cost many times exceeding that of the piles themselves. The matter of the life of a pile involves other considerations than that of the durability of a post in fencing which carries no superstructure.

Turpentine is plentiful in most of the coast forests of New South Wales. It is essentially a pile timber, growing as it does in suitable sizes, straight and even in the barrel, and up to 90 and 100 feet in length, and it is the cheapest class of hardwood procurable in the round in the Colony. If the timber be coppered there will be no necessity, except in rare instances, to use coppered ironbark for piles, and the drain on ironbark for this particular work will be very largely reduced. We desire to encourage the use of turpentine for piles, but subject to all the precautions we have indicated.

Commenting on this Report, Mr. C. W. Darley, late Engineer for Harbours and Rivers, New South Wales, who gave especial attention to the subject of turpentine timber and cobra, wrote to me —

There is one portion which, from long experience and observation, I must remain at issue with your conclusions. I refer to your conclusions set forth in clause V that the bark will afford protection to the piles. I had in my old office a ba- full of samples of bark and wood cut from turpentine piles under water, showing the worm-holes passing through the bark and into the timber (sap-wood only)-indeed some samples rather indicated that they had a weakness for the bark-covered portions. It may be that where the bark is closely adherent they pass through, but when at all loose they do not. I have never yet met with a case when Teredo sinking in one piece of wood has passed out into an adjoining piece even though in close contact-for instance, I have seen dozens of defective planks removed from punts, and never detected a worm passing from the bad one to those adjoining or to the planks inside. In 3-inch planking the caulking would perhaps only go half-way as shown in rough sketch,note having 1 1/2-inch of wood in close contact.

I never saw this joint crossed. May it not be the same with the bark if still loose it forms such a joint, while if it is closely adherent the worm may pass as shown by the samples I had in my possession, now all lost I fear. I never troubled about the bark being kept on after the piles were brought on to the ground and passed. I looked to the bark as one of the means for identifying the timber only, and I have never yet seen any difference in life between those driven with or without the bark. All are equally liable to be damaged as far as the sap-wood goes.

When deciding to use sheathed piles I would never think of using turpentine, as they invariably run much larger in the girth at the butt for (say) a 40-foot pile than ironbark, as a rule, indeed, quite 50 per cent. larger. So when sheathing is paid for at 1s. 6d. per super. foot, the extra price of the timber is soon covered by the saving in sheathing.


— If the tree be wounded, there exudes a brownish liquid resin. If it be desired to collect this substance in quantity, the best way is to fell the tree and to cut it into logs, which may be inclined. The resin will exude, forming a ring between the wood and the bark, and may be scraped off or drained into a suitable vessel. It belongs to the class of bodies known as "oleo-resins." It has been

  ― 27 ―
partly examined by Professor E. H. Rennie, of Adelaide, who obtained an acid from it by boiling with potash, which is not cinnamic acid, but other duties have prevented the completion of the research. It is stated that the native bees use the oleo-resin for the purpose of varnishing the interior of cavities in the trees before starting to build their nests. It is a substance of special interest for its own sake, apart from the fact that it is one of the few exudations from our Australian Myrtaceæ that are not kinos.


— From 120 to 180 feet is no uncommon height for this tree to attain. It often measures 20 to 30 feet in circumference, with great length of bole; but such magnificent specimens are, within easy range of Sydney, usually found in gullies difficult of access.


— It extends throughout the coast districts from the Tweed to the Ulladulla district, arriving at its greatest luxuriance in deep gullies containing good soil, in which situations it is also found well into the mountains. Its southern limit is the head of Cockwhy Creek, between Ulladulla and Bateman's Bay. It extends into Queensland. The return herewith gives valuable information concerning turpentine, and is a guide-to the distribution of this timber.

No. of F.R.  County.  Area in acres.  County.  Area in acres. 
43a  Camden ...  59  5,612  Hunter  22,000 
78  "...  202  33  Macquarie  21,000 
172  "...  170  34  "...  10,000 
173  "...  100  144  "...  12,242 
203  "...  250  233  "...  280 
207  "...  650  234  "...  610 
209  "...  1,000  235  "...  3,840 
211  "...  34  46  Northumberland  15,267 
219  "...  50  69a  "...  6,394 
97,726  Cook ...  6,080  70  "...  32822 
110  Cumberland ...  3,506  128  "...  1,280 
112  Dudley ...  2,453  136  "...  440 
158  "...  79,680  216  "...  9,478 
3,753  "...  16,000  217  "...  3,000 
14,537  Dudley and Raleigh  43,616  5,310  "...  970 
196  Durham ...  10,000  14,972  ...  6,150 
201  "...  22,440  249  Rous...  15,006 
202  "...  35,485  129  St. Vincent  500 
642  Fitzroy...  33,638  10,616  "...  43,295 
13,362  Gloucester ...   3,730  29,370  Westmoreland   70,500 
58  Hunter...  6,120 


— From seed, which is very freely produced. This tree is one of the best indigenous shade-trees in the State. It is gregarious, and its noble, leafy head makes it an ideal tree under which to put garden seats, or to serve as shelter trees for men or animals in a paddock, or as specimen trees, to give a park-like appearance to the land. It is one of those trees that should always be spared in clearing operations, unless its room is actually wanted. It is so different in appearance

  ― 28 ―
to the ordinary run of gum-trees that the occurrence of turpentines is often a relief to the eye. My experience tends to show that turpentines have a large number of roots near the surface, which, if disturbed, readily kill the tree. I would not, however, like to generalise on this point. I have seen some experiments on pollarding the turpentine. The trees were cut in the month of May, and have freely sent forth leaf -buds a considerable distance down the trunk, giving the tree quite an ornamental appearance. Where a tree is growing too large, and it is not necessary to absolutely remove it, the experiment I have indicated might be made.


Plate 3: The Turpentine Tree (Syncarpia laurifolia, Ten.) Lithograph by M. Flockton

  • A. View of individual flower, seen from above.
    • a. Petal.
    • b. Sepal (calyx-lobe).
  • B. Flower seen from below.
  • C. Flower with stamens removed
    • a. Bract.
  • D. Stamen.
  • E. Pistil.
  • F. Transverse section of ovary,
  • G. Cluster of fruits.
  • H. Longitudinal section of a head of fruits.

Footnotes to Issue No. 3

Supplementary Material Added at the End of Volume 2

No. 3. Part 1.

Syncarpia laurifolia, Ten.


(Natural Order MYRTACEÆ.)

Aboriginal names. — See vol. i, p. 16.

Aboriginal name of this tree, as pronounced to me by a very old black gin at Milton, New South Wales, "Bur-um-era" or "Per-um-era," with the accent on the second syllable. — (R. H. Cambage.)

Timber. — See, vol. i, p. 18.


During the last three years, while demolishing a number of old wharves in Sydney Harbour, to make room for improvements necessitated by the growth of the trade of the port, we have had ample, opportunity of ascertaining the value of turpentine piles for wharf construction. Nearly all the old private wharves in Darling Harbour were built of unsheathed turpentine piles of from 8 inches to 12 inches in diameter. Though the exact dates of erection are not obtainable, it is well known that many of them have been standing from thirty to forty years. They were usually of light construction, having been built to suit a much smaller class of vessels than we find it necessary to provide for now. Had it not been for the great increase in tonnage of ships in recent years, several of these old wharves might have been repaired and made serviceable for a few years more. Naturally some of the piles drawn were found to be entirely crippled, but an examination showed that these were usually not turpentine, but some other timber.

We have, in our sample-room in the office, four sections cut from piles drawn from Smith's wharf, Miller's Point, which, from outside indications, appeared to be amongst the most damaged of the piles, usually about low-water mark. In three instances, while the sapwood has disappeared, having been destroyed by Limnoria terebrans, the timber itself is as sound as the day it went into place. Only one of the three sections has any teredo holes, and that not more than ten small ones, which would not materially weaken the pile. The fourth section, which is completely riddled with holes, is not turpentine, and has been classed as ironbark. It may be added that about 80 per cent. of the old turpentine piles, which we have drawn recently after a service varying up to forty years, have been used over again for various purposes, such as sleepers for cargo-shed floors, repairs to old wharves, &,c.

Touching upon more modern experience, we recently demolished a jetty in Woolloomooloo Bay which had been standing twenty years. The piles were of unsheathed turpentine, and proved to be so sound that they have been used again in additions to wharves such as Jones Brothers' coal wharf, Gillespie's wharf, &c. These piles only showed a few teredo holes in the sapwood, and a little erosion above low-water mark, due to Limnoria.

From our experience, which it will be seen is based upon the test of a great many years, it is quite certain that turpentine piles, unsheathed, are, incomparably superior, not only to any other Australian timber, but, also, to any other obtainable of the same size.

Our opinion of the value of turpentine as a teredo-resisting timber has received such confirmation that we have built several wharves on unsheathed turpentine piles,, amongst which may be mentioned Dalgety's White Star wharf, at Miller's Point, 1,200 feet long by 40 feet wide, and we confidently look forward to a life of from thirty to forty years for these wharves.

H. D. WALSH, Engineer.-in-Chief. W. E. ADAMS, Assistant Engineer.

Sydney Harbour Trust, 28th November, 1904.

Habitat. — See vol. i, p. 27.

In walking over the Blue Mountains, New South Wales, the last tree of this species, seen by Mr. R. H. Cambage and myself, is at the top of the big hill, Lawson to Wentworth Falls.

It is indigenous to the Sydney Botanic Gardens and Domain.

Supplementary Material Added to Volume 3

No. 3. Part I. Syncarpia laurifolia, Ten. THE TURPENTINE TREE. (Family MYRTACEAE.)

Synonyms. — See vol. i, p. 16.

Following are the original descriptions of two of the synonyms quoted Metrosideros procera, Salisb. Prod. Stirp. in hort. Chapel Allerton (1796), p. 351. M. foliis alternis; laminis ovato- lanceolatis, subtus viridibus, coriaceis; nervis divaricatis. Sponte nascentem juxta Port Jackson, legit Dav. Burton.

Metrosideros propinqua, Salisb. Prod. Stirp. in hort. Chapel Allerton (1796), p. 351. M. foliis alternis; laminis ovato-lanecolatis, subtus glaucis, coriaceis; nervis divaricatis. Sponte nascentem, juxta Port Jackson, legit Dav. Burton. Admodum similis praecedenti [ M. procera ], sed fructu, ni fallor, distineta species.


Photograph of Turpentine tree (Syncarpia laurifolia), Bulli Pass, N.S.W. (Kerry & Co.)

Supplementary Material Added To Volume 4

No. 3. Part.I. See also vols. ii, p. 185; iii, p. 161.

Syncarpia laurifolia, Ten. THE TURPENTINE TREE. (Family MYRTACEÆ.)


Squared Turpentine girders, Wyong. — (F. A. Kirton, photo.)

Supplementary Material Added With Volume 6

No. 3. Part 1. See also vols. ii, p 185; iii, P. 161; iv, p. 157.

Syncarpia laurifolia Ten.


(Family MYRTACEÆ.)


Syncarpia laurifolia. Bulladelah District, N.S.W. (Photo, A. Murphy, Junior)

  ― 29 ―

No. 4: Pittosporum phillyræoides,


The Narrow-leaved Pittosporum

(Natural Order PITTOSPORACEÆ.)

Botanical description

— Genus, Pittosporum, Banks.

Petals. — Usually connivent or cohering in a tube at their base or above the middle.

Anthers. — Ovate, oblong.

Ovary. — Sessile or shortly stipitate, incompletely or almost completely two-celled, or rarely three to five celled.

Style. — Short.

Capsule. — Globose, ovate or obovate, often laterally compressed ; the valves coriaceous or thick and hard, bearing the placentas along their centre.

Seeds. — Thick or globular, not winged, often enveloped in a viscous liquor. Shrubs or trees, glabrous, or rarely tomentose.

Leaves. — Usually evergreen, entire or minutely toothed, the upper ones frequently collected into a false whorl.

Flowers. — Not large, axillary, or terminal; solitary or in close corymbose panicles. (B.Fl., 1, 109.)

Botanical description

— Species, phillyræoides, DC.note — Prod. i, 347. Putterlick in Pl., Preiss. i, 192 ; F. Mueller, Pl. Vict. i, 72.

A small, graceful tree or slender shrub, quite glabrous in all its parts.

Leaves. — Usually oblong or linear-lanceolate, with a small, hooked point, 2 to 4 inches long, quite entire, narrowed into a petiole, thick coriaceous and indistinctly veined, but in some forms short and broadly oblong, in others long and narrow.

Pedicels. — Axillary, solitary, or in sessile or shortly pedunculate clusters or umbels, or the uppermost forming a terminal cluster.

Flowers. — Yellow, usually about 4 lines long, often dioecious, the females rather larger and fewer together than the males.

Sepals. — Short and very obtuse.

Petals. — United to the middle or still higher, spreading at the top.

Ovary. — Pubescent, almost completely two-celled, with six to eight ovules in each cell.

Fruit. — Ovate or round cordate, much compressed, quite smooth, varying from 4 to 9 lines in length, but usually about 1/2 inch.

Seeds. — Few, dark or orange-red. (B.Fl. i. 112)

  ― 30 ―

Botanical Name

— Pittosporum (Greek), pitte to pitch; sporos a seed, the seeds being sticky and sometimes black, like pitch; phyllyraceoides, with leaves like, the common Phillyrea angustifolia, Linn., of Europe.

Vernacular Names

— Sometimes called "Butter Bush" in Northern Australia, perhaps because of the greasy appearance of the seeds; but that is merely surmise. "Willow Tree," or "Native Willow," of many parts of Australia, on account of its graceful, Willow-like foliage and habit. Called "Poison-berry Tree" in South Australia. The berries are not poisonous, only bitter. Miss M. A. Clements of Palesthan, Condobolin, informs me that owing, to the bitterness, or rather acridity, the tree is sometimes known as "Quinine Tree." We have, of course, several so-called "Quinine Trees." She also states that some people call it "Bell's Orange."


P. angustifolium, Lodd.; Bot. Cab., t. 1859.

P. longifolium and P. Roeanum, Putterl.; Syn. Pittosp., 15, 16.

P. ligustrifolium, A. Cunn.; in Putterl., in Pl. Preiss, i. 190.

P. oleifolium, A. Cunn.; in Putterl., Syn. Pittosp., 17.

P. acacioides, A. Cunn.; in Ann. Nat. Hist., ser. 1, iv, 109.

P. salicinum, Lindl; in Mitchell's Tropical Australia, 97.

P. lanceolatum, A. Cunn.; in Mitch., l.c. 272 and 291.

The plant is somewhat variable, hence some of the synonyms. Allan Cunningham, who actually collected, made three species, and Putterlick, the monographer of the genus, added to the number.


— In times of scarcity this tree is of great value, as it withstands the drought, and sheep and cattle browse upon its foliage. Stock are so partial to it in the interior districts that it is in danger of extermination in parts, and it is a tree which should be conserved.


— The fruit is of a yellow or orange colour, and is very ornamental when it dehisces and exposes its contents of small, more or less angular, sticky, red seeds.

"The seeds are very bitter to the taste, yet the aborigines in the interior of South Australia were in the habit. of pounding them into flour for use as food." (Tepper.) Mr. J. R. Chisholm, p. 31, says they are not eaten by the aborigines of Northern Queensland.

  ― 31 ―


— Wood close grained, light in colour, and very hard. Useful for turnery, and possibly for wood-engraving. "Specific gravity, 767." (Report, Victorian Exhibition, 1861.)

The tree being so small, its timber can never be of commercial importance.


— The genus Pittosporum is one which yields both gums and resins. See Maiden.note The present tree is referred to in the following paragraph: —

"Several Acaciae useful . . . . for their gum, but the latter is even excelled in clearness and solubility by that obtained from Pittosporum acacioides." (Mueller, First General Report, 1853, page 6)

I have not received many specimens of the gum; it is of scientific rather than of general interest.


— It rarely exceeds 25 to 30 feet in height, and is as a rule much smaller. Ten inches in diameter is the maximum authenticated measurement of the trunk known to me.


— It occurs in every State of Australia. It is a native of country with a small rainfall, and hence flourishes in the and interior. In our own State it is not found near the coast, though in some other States this does not hold, as it occurs in places which have a sparse rainfall, although near the seaboard. In New South Wales it has been found by Mr. R. H. Cambage in the Tamworth district, the most easterly locality known to me. It should be looked for in the Page River country (near Scone), where a number of stragglers of the Western vegetation have already been found.


— The seeds germinate readily. It grows well in the Sydney district in spite of the heavy rainfall. The ground must be well drained for it to flourish.

An Aboriginal Legend

— Some years since, a valued North Queensland correspondent, Mr. J. R. Chisholm, gave me the following legend in regard to our tree. These are his words: —

Years ago I was walking along Prairie Creek with a black boy companion. It was just about the time we took up the country. Passing a little patch of scrub I noticed these berries. I asked the black if they were edible, or, as I put it, "black fellow tuckout that one"?

"Baal, baal," he replied, and he added shortly afterwards ,that one mother belonging to gin."

I asked how, and he gave me the legend, taking care to impress upon me that it was a long time ago. No one lived in the country at that time, but this bush grew along the creek, as it does now. One day one of the berries opened, and out of it came a beautiful young gin. Very beautiful indeed, and stately, and she lived on the creek by the waterholes alone, hunting sugar-bags and trapping duck, and getting fat grubs from the trees. So she lived quietly through many months, or even years, all the time pining for some mate, until one day she was strolling along past another patch of scrub, when 10 and behold she noticed a bush with seed-pods upon it, and while she watched a seed-pod opened and out of it came a young blackfellow.

  ― 32 ―
He was a fine built able young fellow, just about her own age, and without any ado she bade him good-day, and entered into conversation with him, and he walked with her to the camp by the waterhole. There the two became good friends and lived together, and after a time she gave birth " to a son and a daughter, and as they grew up they went lower down the creek, and settled on the same lines, and were happy."

That is the legend as I got it. I asked him to show me the other bush, but he did not know it, saying that "Old man Jimmy" would show me, and since that time I have never met Jimmy in the neighbourhood.

If I remember rightly, there is a tree origin belief among the Hindoos, and I have heard similar legends among the natives of Borneo.


Plate 4: The Narrow-leaved Pittosporum (Pittosporum phillyræoides, DC). Lithograph by M. Flockton

  • A. A single flower.
  • B. The flower opened out, showing petals, stamens, and ovary.
  • C. A stamen.
  • D. View of pistil with calyx.
    • a. Stigma.
    • b. Style.
    • c. Ovary.
    • d. Calyx.
  • E. Cluster of fruits, capsules, dehiscing, showing the seeds.

Footnotes to Issue No. 4

Supplementary Material Added to Volume 3

No. 4. Part I. Pittosporum phillyroeoides, DC. THE NARROW-LEAVED PITTOSPORUM. (Family PITTOSPORACEAE.)

Aboriginal Names. — See vol. i, P. 30.

"Macla" of the Paroo River blacks (R. J. Dalton). " Derrine of the Dubbo blacks (C. Marriott).

Medicinal Properties. — "Used by the blacks in the old clays for internal pains and sprains. The seeds and pulp were taken from the fruit and soaked in water." — (R,. J. Dalton, Tinapagee, Wanaring.)

An infusion of wood or leaves taken inwardly will relieve pain and cramps." — (C. Marriott, District Forester, Dubbo.)


A cultivated specimen (Pittosporum phillyroeoides) in the Botanic Gardens. — (Government Printer.) As a young tree it is a blaze of yellow flowers from top to bottom

Supplementary Material Added To Volume 4

No. 4. Part I. See also vol. iii, p. 161.


Fruits. — See vol. i, p. 30.

"The fruits of P. phillyræoides, DC., yielded an extract frothing at 1–4000 and hæmolytic at 1–1500."

(Phytochemical investigations at Kew by the late Dr. M. Greshog, Kew Bulletin, No. 10, 1909, p. 415.)


"Butter-bush," Mungindi District. — (Kerry, photo.)

Sydney: William Applegate Gullick, Government Printer. — 1902
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