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NZ Plants

1800 to 1849

1800 - The spread of Norway rats and domestic cats, clearing of land and excessive hunting begins to have serious implications for native birds with many becoming extinct.
 - Captain Henry Waterhouse of the HMS Reliance discovers subantarctic islands 872km south-east of the South Island and names them the Antipodes Islands. Of volcanic origin, the largest is 2,100ha with several prominent cones and craters and contains mostly tussock with a few shrubs.

1801 - Captain William Wilson of the Royal Admiral arrives at Hauraki to collect timber for spars. The European potato is seen to be extensively cultivated by the Māori.


  • Whaling and sealing are well established. At the Bay of Islands the presence of whalers encourages Māori to grow vegetables and pigs for sale.


  • The Auckland Islands, a sub-Antarctic group of islands of volcanic origin 465 km south of the South Island, are discovered by Captain Abraham Bristow of the Enderby and Sons shipping firm's whaling ship, the Ocean; they are annexed by Great Britain in the following year. Of volcanic origin, the two largest islands have a total area of 61,117 ha and support forest, dense scrub and grassland. There are numerous fiord-like inlets and two excellent harbours.


  • Captain Frederick Hasselburg of the Robert Campbell & Co. sealing ship Perseverance, discovers a subantarctic island 600 km south of Stewart Island. A shield volcano of Miocene age, this becomes known as Campbell Island, comprising 11,331 ha of shrub, herbfields and tussock.
  • William Leith arrives at the Bay of Islands on the Experiment to establish a flax gathering settlement but leaves after 10 days.


  • Captain Williams reports large potato fields around Bluff. Captain Fowler on the Matilda buys potatoes from Māori at Otago Harbour.


  • Missionary-explorer Rev. Samuel Marsden with the King, Hall and Kendall families arrives in the Bay of Islands representing the Church of England Church Missionary Society (CMS) and establish the first CMS mission at Rangihoua. Cattle and horses are landed. Missionary gardens introduce many vegetables to the Māori. Marsden explores widely making ethnological observations on Māori culture.
  • First recorded instance of wheat harvesting in New Zealand, at Rangihoua by two Māori chiefs, Ruatara and Hongi, using seed provided by Marsden.
  • At the Bay of Islands the price of one musket is 150 baskets of potatoes and eight pigs.


  • Marsden returns to Sydney on the Active with a cargo of flax and timber.
  • Small quantities of kauri gum are exported to Sydney and London but receive little interest. Gum is a soft residue remaining after fresh resin is exposed to the air. The best quality gum is clear and hard, derived from buried deposits which have accumulated over a long period of time.


  • The ‘Oriental Navigator' publishes a map assigning the name of Stewart Island (known as Rakiura to the Māori) to the forested 1,689 sq km island 24 km south of the South Island. This is the culmination of a succession of sealers who explored and charted Foveaux Strait, one of the areas not thoroughly investigated by Cook.


  • Samuel Marsden, James Kemp and Rev.John Butler arrive at the Bay of Islands. Marsden chooses Kerikeri as the site of a second mission and plants grape vines (Vitis vinifera) there; citrus are soon imported and grown around missionary areas. After further explorations in Northland, Marsden departs.


  • Māori are preparing and exporting increasingly large quantities of phormium fibre and sometimes are paid with guns and ammunition.


  • Marsden returns on the naval ship Dromedary for the official purpose of securing logs for naval purposes and continues his observations on Māori culture during extensive overland journeys over a nine month period.
  • First European settlement in the south established by the chief Honekai on Whenua Hou (Codfish Island) for sealers and their Māori wives.
  • Landing of first consignment of muskets by Hongi Hika and Waikato. The Musket Wars begin and spread throughout the North Island. After a decade, over half the population of Māori are killed, enslaved or displaced through intertribal fighting.
  • Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen, commander of the Russian Southern Expedition and captain of the Vostok, accompanied by Mikhail Lazarev, captain of the Mirnyy, spend nine days in Queen Charlotte Sound. They note that the local Māori cultivated potatoes and several European vegetables introduced by Cook. Turnip, carrot, pumpkin, broadbean and pea seeds were given to the Māori. Bellingshausen collects flax seed for planting in the Southern Crimea and accumulates a significant collection of Māori artifacts


  • Marsden arrives accompanied by Rev. Henry Williams, a former naval officer. Williams assumes leadership of the missions in the Bay of Islands from Paihia and introduces a stabilizing influence on the small settlement. Rawiri Taiwhanga becomes a versatile and successful horticulturist and later the country's first commercial dairy farmer.
  • Wesleyan missionaries arrive and establish a settlement at Whangaroa; in 1827 they move to Hokianga and then to Waima.


  • Captain Louis I. Duperry of the corvette la Coquille arrives in the Bay of Islands and remains for three weeks. Lieutenant Dumont d'Urville is in charge of botanical collections, assisted by artist René P. Lesson.


  • Allan Cunningham, government botanist at Port Jackson, spends four months collecting from the Bay of Islands to Hokianga and in the neighbourhood of Whangaroa. In 1831 he returns to England with a large collection of dried and living plants and samples of Australian and New Zealand woods and seeds which are given to the Kew Gardens.
  • Capt. Herd of the First New Zealand Company's ship, Rosanna, enters and names Port Nicholson at the southern tip of the North Island.


  • Dumont d'Urville returns to New Zealand as Captain of the Astrolabe with naturalist, Pierre Adolph Lesson, younger brother of René Lesson. Arriving at Cape Farewell, the Astrolabe explores and collects specimens on the South Island mainland, Tasman Bay, Marlborough Sounds and the east coast of the North Island.


  • The mate of the brig Hawes observes that cabbage is commonly cultivated by the Māori.

Late 1820s

  • A trade in sawn timber destined for the Australian colonies is developed. Much of the timber comes from the Hokianga and Coromandel areas.


  • Approximately 300 European settlers are living in New Zealand.
  • French are using the settlement of Akaroa on Banks Peninsula in the South Island, 85 km south east of present day Christchurch as a base for whaling ships.
  • Commencement of the commercial export of kauri gum with the recognition of its value in high grade oils and varnishes. Much good quality gum is collected from deposits that have become exposed on the surface of forest litter and beaches.
  • Philip Tapsell establishes a trading post at Maketū in the Bay of Plenty. Traders and shore-based whalers are becoming established in settlements.
  • Large numbers of Māori move to wetlands to collect and hand dress (removing soft tissue from the desirable fibre) New Zealand flax leaves which are exported to Sydney. Phormium fibre used as cordage soon becomes the largest export commodity of the colony.
  • The first purchases of Māori land on Banks Peninsula.


  • Marsden visits Waimate in Northland to introduce European principles of farming. Waimate is already the site of successful Māori cultivation of kūmara, potatoes and maize.


  • Captain Cyrille-Pierre Laplace of the La Favorite arrives at Kororareka in the Bay of Islands and maps the Kawakawa River, planting French flags.


  • Essai d'une Flore de la Nouvelle-Zelande by Achille Richard describes specimens collected by P. A. Lesson, d'Urville and the Forsters and is the first publication dealing with the flora of New Zealand as a whole. This is followed by the publication of the illustrated Atlas in 1833-34 with 49 engravings devoted to New Zealand plants.


  • James Busby, a pioneer in the Australian wine industry, arrives in the Bay of Islands to assume responsibilities as the First British Resident in New Zealand. A viticulturist, he plants a vineyard between the house and flagstaff at Waitangi and eventually produces wines for sale.
  • Richard Cunningham (the younger brother of Allan- see 1826), superintendent of the Sydney Gardens, visits North Auckland, describes the plants around Whangaroa and Hokianga. He returns later to Australia but is killed by aborigines after becoming lost while collecting plants.
  • Construction of the first water powered mill for grinding wheat begins at Waimate in the Bay of Islands. In 1837 the mill produces 50,000 pounds of flour.


  • William Colenso arrives at the Bay of Islands as the printer for the Church Mission Society at Paihia and becomes interested in natural history. He is encouraged to study plants by Charles Darwin when he visits in the following year and by Allan Cunningham in 1838.
    • First significant shipment of live sheep to New Zealand when John Bell Wright lands 105 merinos on Mana Island near Wellington.


  • The Beagle commanded by Captain Robert FitzRoy with Charles Darwin, naturalist, visits the Bay of Islands 21-30 December. Darwin looks at plants in the Bay of Islands and measures kauri trees; notes Māori tending grape vines.
  • Phormium fibre becomes an important item of trade between Māori and sealers/whalers. It also becomes a regular item of export to Australia and England where it is classified as a ‘hard' fibre.


  • Captain J. Howell liberates the first batch of Australian brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) near Invercargill to establish a fur trade. This is not successful but over the next 80 years releases are made in 460 locations, most of which are successful.
  • First of numerous purchases of land from the Māori by Europeans.


  • Jean-Baptiste Pompallier, 1st Catholic Bishop of the South Pacific, arrives in Hokianga and relocates to the Bay of Islands the following year. He brings French vine cuttings which are planted wherever mission outposts are established.
  • Jean Francois Langlois of the whaling ship Cachalot purchases land from local Māori on Banks Peninsula for the purposes of a future settlement.
  • First certain record of rabbits, introduced from New South Wales.


  • John C. Bidwill arrives by schooner from Australia. He travels from Tauranga to Rotorua and Taupō, climbs Mount Ngāuruhoe and returns to Tauranga through the Waikato district, collecting a variety of plants as he travels. At Tauranga Bidwill notes that the Māori gather wild cabbages and rely upon the potato as a mainstay in their diet.
  • The New Zealand Company purchases land in the Hutt Valley at Port Nicholson (Wellington).
  • First recorded importation of honey bees (Apis mellifera) takes place in the Hokianga district.
  • Captain Chaffers of the Tory arrives with naturalist Dr Ernst Dieffenbach to search for prospective settlement locations for the New Zealand Company .
  • Dieffenbach makes important journeys to the Marlborough Sounds, the Hutt Valley, and the west coast and central volcanic regions of the North Island. In Taranaki, Dieffenbach and Heberley become the first Europeans to climb Mount Taranaki (Mt Egmont). He sends collections of plants, animals and rocks back to the New Zealand Company in England where many eventually find their way to the British Museum and the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew.
  • Rev. Richard Taylor lands at Paihia and later in the year is put in charge of the mission school at Waimate. He begins recording the natural history of the surrounding area.
  • Captain James Clark Ross's Antarctic Expedition with naturalists Joseph Hooker and Dr David Lyall on the Erebus and the Terror visits the Auckland Islands (late 1839) and Campbell Island (early 1840) and then proceeds to the Antarctic.


  • The Northern War, the result of continued European colonization, results in defeat of Māori by imperial troops in the North Island
    • The New Zealand Company settlers arrive at the Company settlements of Port Nicholson, Wanganui and New Plymouth on the North Island and at Nelson on the South Island.
    • Large scale immigration commences with the New Zealand Company ships alone eventually bringing in over 15,000 settlers
    • Pioneer farms around North Island settlements are small and require clearing of heavy rainforest. Land is sown with grass, or used to grow crops including wheat.
    • Māori become involved in growing crops for the colonists on the North Island especially around Wellington and Auckland. Within 10 years much land is committed to raising grain, orchard fruit, potatoes, kūmara and other vegetables. Māori build over 60 flour mills, supplying the colony with much of its flour.
    • Sheep runs are established on eastern coasts of both the North and South Islands.
    • Gorse (Ulex europaeus) seed is advertised for sale in the earliest issues of the newspapers of Dunedin, Christchurch and Nelson and is one of the earliest hedge and ornamental plants to have been established. Without its natural predators it soon spreads to become a noxious weed.
    • Rev. Richard Taylor and Sir George Grey climb the slopes of Mt Ruapehu in the late 1840s, reaching the ice fields below the summit.
    • Feral pigs and goats are well established on both the North and South Islands.


  • Captain William Hobson arrives in the Bay of Islands on the Herald with a commission as lieutenant-governor and on 6th February, the Treaty of Waitangi is signed and New Zealand becomes a Crown Colony of Britain. On 21 May Hobson proclaims sovereignty over the whole of New Zealand and organized settlement begins.
  • Hobson decides to move the capital from the Bay of Islands to Auckland; surveys are completed for the new settlement by the end of the year and the move is made in 1841.
  • The settlement at Port Nicholson officially becomes known as Wellington.
  • John Logan Campbell settles in Auckland and opens a trading company. Thirteen years later he and his partner William Brown purchase One Tree Hill Estate.
  • The New Zealand Company charters the barque Cuba with Dieffenbach as the naturalist to visit the Chatham Islands. He describes the Moriori (decimated by Māori invasions five years previously) and details aspects of the native vegetation as well as the crops (potatoes, turnips, cabbages, pumpkins) cultivated by the inhabitants.
  • John Bidwill returns to New Zealand, visiting Port Nicholson.
  • French colonists arrive in Akaroa several months after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. Roads, bridges, shops and houses are built in the following years and vineyards are established. French accede to British sovereignty.
  • Dumont d'Urville's third expedition to southern latitudes in the l'Astrolabe and la Zelee with naturalists Jaccques Hombron and Honore Jacquinot visits the Auckland Islands and Akaroa and specimens are collected. Dumont d'Urville meets governor Hobson in the Bay of Islands and visits James Busby's vineyard.
  • The French corvette l'Aube with doctor and botanist Etienne F.L.Raoul arrives in Akaroa. Based there for 2 ½ years, he collects plants in and around Akaroa and also has brief visits to the Bay of Islands. He departs in 1843 and deposits specimens in the Museum of Natural History, Paris.


  • New Zealand is proclaimed independent from New South Wales and a separate Crown Colony with Auckland as the capital.
  • John Bidwill publishes a description of his travels, Rambles in New Zealand which includes significant observations on flora and Māori agriculture.
  • William Colenso travels by ship to Hicks Bay (East Cape) and then walks down the coast to Poverty Bay and inland to Lake Waikaremoana. After making a traverse of the Urewera district he arrives in Rotorua and returns to Paihia through the Waikato and the Kaipara arriving home early the next year. Notes and extensive plant collections were made along the way.
  • Dieffenbach explores the North Auckland and Taupō-Rotorua districts. His contract with the New Zealand Company at an end, Dieffenbach unsuccessfully petitions the government to complete a scientific survey of the country and departs.
  • The Erebus and Terror arrive at the Bay of Islands 16 August. Joseph Hooker meets William Colenso and Dr Andrew Sinclair, surgeon in the Royal Navy, and they participate in collecting specimens.


  • Missionary Richard Taylor moves south to a mission station near Wanganui. In the following years he travels extensively in the district and also visits Rotorua and New Plymouth. He is a keen observer of plants, animals and Māori customs.
  • Colenso embarks on his most extensive inland trip. Collecting plant specimens along the way, he again starts at Hick's Bay and walks down the east coast to Poverty Bay. He goes by ship to Castlepoint on the Wairarapa coast and north by foot to the Ahuriri district (Napier) where a site for a mission station is selected. He then travels north to the Urewera district, down the Whakatane River to the Bay of Plenty and on to Tauranga, arriving at the Bay of Islands the next year.
  • Joseph Hooker publishes Flora Antarctica as the first two volumes of The Botany of the Antarctic Voyage. Part one comprises the Auckland Islands, Campbell Island and Macquarie Island. Here he records 80 flowering plants of which 56 were hitherto undescribed and is especially struck by the magnificent giant herbs, Pleurophyllum speciosum and Bulbinella rossii.
  • Dieffenbach publishes Travels in New Zealand, which includes various uses of plants by the Māori.
    • A tannery is operating in Russell followed two years later by tanneries at Auckland and Nelson. Hīnau (Elaeocarpus dentatus), beech (Nothofagus spp.), kōhūhū (Pittosporum tenuifolium), kāmahi (Weinmannia racemosa) and tānekaha (Phyllocladus trichomanoides) were all prized for their tannins.
  • The first A&P show sponsored by the Auckland Agricultural and Pastoral Association. Further A&P associations will be established all over New Zealand with the aim to improve farming.


  • Andrew Sinclair, now New Zealand Colonial Secretary, spends his leisure time collecting plants from all parts of the North Island. He sends large collections to Joseph Hooker at Kew Gardens, providing him with much material for his volume on New Zealand flora.
  • John Logan Campbell and his partner William Brown export phormium fibre, kauri spars, wood, kauri gum, tanning bark and five cases of live plants for Kew Gardens on the Bolina bound for the United Kingdom.
  • The ‘Otago Purchase' is made by the New Zealand Company. This consists of 215,000 ha of coastal land from Dunedin south to Nugget Point.
  • Recently ordained and a deacon, Colenso heads south with his wife and daughter to the new mission station at Ahuriri. The parish is a large one, extending as far south as Palliser Bay and beyond the Ruahine Range to the upper reaches of the Rangitiki River. He travels widely, making botanical and ethnological notes.


  • Some of the findings of Colenso's 1841-42 journey are published in a monograph, A Classification and Description of Some Newly-discovered Ferns; this is reprinted in the Tasmanian Journal of Natural Science in 1846. Colenso is described by Joseph Hooker as "the foremost New Zealand botanical explorer".


  • Charles Bidwell and two others ship 3,000 sheep into Marlborough.
  • Choix de plantes de la Nouvelle-Zélande by Etienne Raoul is published in Europe. This illustrated work catalogues and describes ferns and flowering plants in Banks Peninsula and elsewhere, including 44 new species.


  • Lyall, now a naturalist on the naval vessel Acheron, explores and collects specimens in the southern South Island. He discovers the Mt Cook Lily (Ranunculus lyallii) and becomes the first botanist to collect specimens on Stewart Island.
  • Colenso travels from his mission in Hawke's Bay to Lake Taupō, heads south across the Rangipō Desert and then east, successfully traversing the Ruahine Range, collecting many specimens.


  • John Bidwill returns to New Zealand, visits the Nelson area and collects alpine specimens. Many of Bidwill's specimens from his New Zealand travels end up at Kew Gardens.
  • Scottish Otago Association establishes a settlement at Dunedin.
  • Richard Taylor publishes A Leaf from the Natural History of New Zealand with information on native timbers, phormium fibre, dyewoods, food plants and medicinal plants.
  • Free Church of Scotland buys the eastern portion of the Murihiku Block for the first Otago settlers
  • Henry T. Kemp purchases most of Canterbury, Westland and Otago from the Ngāi Tahu Māori on behalf of the Crown.


  • Enderby and Sons lease the Auckland Islands. Settlers arrive at Port Ross on Auckland Island to establish a whaling base and trading station; crops are sown and livestock introduced. The settlement closes in 1852. Attempts at establishing sheep are made in 1874, 1895 and 1900 but are also unsuccessful.