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NZ Plants

Post-European to 1799


  • Abel Janszoon Tasman, commander of the Heemskerck and Zeehaen, sails along New Zealand's western coastline which he names Staten Land. He encounters Māori at Golden Bay where four of his crewmen are killed and sails north without making a landing.
    Departing New Zealand, Tasman sails 58 km northwest of the tip of North Island and discovers and names the Three Kings Islands. These are a group of 13 volcanic islands and islets rising 100-295 m above sea level from the surrounding deep waters. The largest, Great Island (Ohau), is 400 ha , twice the combined size of the other islands. Māori inhabitants are sighted but a landing is not made.


  • Lieutenant James Cook, commander of the Endeavour, explores and charts the North and South Islands. Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander collect about 360 species of plants and Sydney Parkinson illustrates many of these. Collections are made in coastal areas of the North Island from Poverty Bay to the Bay of Islands and from Queen Charlotte Sound to Admiralty Bay in the South Island. There is no record of any deliberate introductions of flora or fauna.
  •  Jean Francois Marie de Surville, captain of the Saint-Jean Baptiste, arrives at Tokerau or Doubtless Bay eight days after the departure of the Endeavour. Two hogs are left with the Māori for breeding rather than eating purposes.
  •  Māori population of New Zealand estimated to be 100,000 to 110,000.


  • Captain Joseph Marion du Fresne, in command of the Mascarin and the Marquis de Castries, with Julien-Marie Crozet, 2nd in command, arrive at Spirits Bay and proceed to the Bay of Islands. The presence of canoes carved from kauri (Agathis australis) was noted and a tall kauri was felled and shaped into a mast for one of du Fresne's damaged ships, the Marquis de Castries. Crozet plants a garden of fruit trees, wheat, millet, maize and other vegetables and grains on one of the islands and writes a detailed description of New Zealand and the life of the Māori. Du Fresne and 26 crew are massacred by the Māori.


  • Second voyage to southern latitudes by James Cook, commander of the Resolution with Tobias Furneaux, commander of the Adventure; three visits are made to New Zealand. Johann Forster and his son George, naturalists on this voyage, collect 119 specimens in Dusky and Queen Charlotte Sounds. A male and female goat, five geese, a boar and two breeding sows, a ram and a ewe are liberated in the Marlborough Sounds to provide emergency food supplies for visiting ships and "several sorts of seeds" are sown at Dusky Bay. The animal introductions are a failure. Additional animals are released into the bush six months later and a garden is planted with potatoes, corn, beans, kidney beans and various other vegetables, including cabbage.


  • Johann and George Forster publish two editions of Characteres Genera Plantarum with 31 plants from New Zealand being illustrated and described.


  • Cook's third visit to New Zealand as captain of the Resolution accompanied by Captain Charles Clerke of the Discovery. Although there is no official botanist appointed for this voyage the ship's surgeon, Dr William Anderson, is a competent botanist and David Nelson from The Royal Botanic Garden, Kew, represents Sir Joseph Banks as a botanical collector. Specimens are collected from Queen Charlotte Sound including a collection of seeds.


  • George Forster publishes two works. Florulae Insularum Australium Prodromus includes 141 species from New Zealand; this work lacks illustrations and adequate descriptions. De Plantis Esculentis Insularum Oceani Australis Commentatio Botanica describes edible plants, 14 of which are from New Zealand.


  • Governor Phillip in Sydney is instructed by the British Government to procure New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax) and timber for the Navy.
  •  Captain William Bligh of the Bounty discovers three groups of subantarctic islands scattered over 4 km of ocean 642 km southeast of the South Island. These are named the Bounty Islands and have a total area of 135 ha. They consist of smooth outcrops of early Jurassic granite devoid of vegetation except some freshwater algae and lichens.
  • Captain W. Sever and Lieutenant Watts of the Lady Penrhyn discover an island 821 km northeast of East Cape and 19 km further, a second island and name them Curtis and Macauley islands respectively. They are part of a chain of submerged volcanoes (later known as the Kermadec Islands) extending alongside the Kermadec Trench for 243 km, halfway between New Zealand and Tonga.


  • Sealing, deep-sea whaling, phormium fibre and timber trading begins.


  • Captain George Vancouver of the Discovery and lieutenant William Broughton of the Chatham arrive at Dusky Bay. Archibald Menzies, surgeon and naturalist, collects ferns, mosses and liverworts which eventually are described by Sir W.J. Hooker and beautifully illustrated in the Musci Exotici (1881-1820) and the Icones Filicum.
  • Broughton discovers a group of islands 860 km east of Banks Peninsula and names them the Chatham Islands. The 40 islands have a total of 97,000 ha but only Rekohu (Chatham Island) and the smaller Rangiauria (Pitt Island) have a substantial size. A mosaic of forest types covers 90% of the land with the remainder in scrub and rush swamp. Broughton lands on Rekohu and meets the Moriori inhabitants; their population is estimated to be 2,000.


  • A.R.J. de Bruni, Chevalier d'Entrecasteaux, rear Admiral and commander of la Recherche and J.M. Huon de Kermadec, captain of l'Espérance, briefly visit the coast of the North Island. J.J. Houtou de LaBillardiere, the naturalist with the expedition, gathers a number of plants including New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax) and later successfully grows the plant in Europe. Sailing from New Zealand they discover a small volcanic outcrop 720 km northeast of the North Island naming it L'Espérance Island. They continue for 240 km passing unseen the earlier-discovered Macauley and Curtis islands and come to a 3000 ha island with lush vegetation and name it Raoul Island after the quartermaster Raoul. D'Entrecasteaux names the islands the Kermadecs which today include all four islands in the group and contain 113 species of vascular plants of which 23 are endemic.


  • First shipment of timber from New Zealand.


  • Captain Raven of the Britannia, sights Raoul Island in the Kermadecs and unaware that it has already been named, calls it Sunday Island; this becomes its more commonly used name.