April 8, 2019 By Nataly Cowart In Garden Plants
There were other collectors sent out from the Royal Botanic Gardens at about the same time: Archibald Menzies, William Hooker, and Dr Abel. These then were the means and Banks the motivating force, and it was he, with memories of Australia ever fresh in mind, who dispatched Allan Cunningham to New South Wales in 1816. There he collected and sent home Banksia, the genus named after his guide and mentor, Sir Joseph Banks. Eucalyptus and were also notable introductions made by Cunningham.
What is immediately obvious, when reading journals and field notes written by these early plant hunters, is the incredible courage and fortitude they displayed. Had the motivating force been the lure of gold, precious stones, or some other easily negotiable form of guaranteed access to wealth and position, the tenacity of purpose would have been explained.
Instead, the ‘Golden Fleece’ for which these latter-day Argonauts were searching had no fixed price tag; the rewards, if any, were therefore modest. Floods, terrain so impassable that progress on foot was difficult, and finding drinkable water were constant problems.
In the Lachlan river area the Aborigines provided a threatening presence to distract from the peaceful business. Time must be spent in preparing and then packing seeds and plants for dispatch on the long hazardous sea journey back to England.
Then comes the problem of transport to the nearest where there is a shipping company willing to take responsibility for such a perishable cargo. In spite of all the difficulties he encountered, Cunningham continued tirelessly, searching out and exploring new territory and collecting the plants he so obviously loved. Apart from a brief return to England, he spent the rest of his short life collecting in Australia and New Zealand.
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