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‘This Noble Tree’: J. C. Bidwill and the Naming of the Bunya Pine

  • Thom Blake

Extract

The bunya pine was given its scientific name Araucaria bidwillii in 1843 by Sir William Hooker, the director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. Hooker named the tree after John Came Bidwill, a colleague who had been in Australia and who provided Hooker with a detailed description of the tree and specimens of a young plant and samples of a branch and nut. Controversy has surrounded the ‘discovery’ and naming of the bunya, not the least that Andrew Petrie was the first to identify the tree and it was tentatively called Pinus petrieana. This controversy is discussed briefly elsewhere in this journal by John Huth. The purpose of this paper is to examine Bidwill's role in identifying the bunya and whether Hooker was justified in his decision to honour Bidwill in the nomenclature.

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Notes

1 See Huth, John, ‘Introducing the Bunya pine - a noble denizen of the scrub’ in this volume.

2 Herbert, D. A., ‘Bidwill, John Carne’ in Pike, D. ed., Australian Dictionary of Biography (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1966), 98.

3 Mabberley, D. J., ‘Bidwill of the bunya-bunya’, Curtis’ Botantical Magazine, 18, 1, (2001): 33.

4 Doran, Dimity Cryle, Denis, The Petrie Family: Building Colonial Brisbane (St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1992), 2251.

5 C. to Colonial Secretary 13 January 1849, AONSW 49/1714.

6 Simpson, Stephen to Colonial Secretary, 30 May 1842, in Langevad, G. ed., Simpson Letterbook: Cultural and Historical Records of Queensland (Brisbane: Anthropology Museum, University of Queensland, 1979), 2.

7 Russell, Henry, The Genesis of Queensland (Sydney: Turner and Henderson, 1888). The Wardian case was invented by Dr Nathanial Ward in 1829. It enabled delicate plants to be transported over long distances without drying out. (Daniel Headrick, The Tentacles of Progress: Technology Transfer in the Age of Imperialism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 212).

8 Bidwill, J. S. to Chief Commissioner of Crown Lands, 30 May 1851, AONSW 4/7173 51/43.

9 Bidwill, J. S. to Sir William Hooker, 1 July 1843, Kew Gardens, Australian letters, 1834–51, Vol 43.

10 Hooker, W. J., ‘Figures and descriptions of a new species of Araucaria from Moreton Bay, detacted by J. T. Bidwill Esq’, London Journal of Botany, vol ii (1843): 498–99.

11 This likely a transcription error on Hooker's part. In the letter from which Hooker quotes, Bidwill says it was called ‘Bunya bunya or Banya Banya’ (J. S. Bidwill to Sir William Hooker, 1 July 1843, Kew Gardens, Australian letters, 1834-51, Vol 43).

12 Hooker, W. J., ‘Figures and descriptions of a new species of Araucaria from Moreton Bay, detected by J. T. Bidwill Esq’, London Journal of Botany ii (1843): 502.

13 Herbert, ‘Bidwill, John Carne’, 98.

14 Fitzroy, quoted in Gilbert, Lionel, The Royal Botanic Gardens: a History 1816-1985 (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1986), 72.

15 Gilbert, , The Royal Botanic Gardens, 73.

16 Bidwill, J. C. to Colonial Secretary, 30 December 1848, John Oxley Library, A2.48/290.

17 Bidwill, J. C. to Colonial Secretary, 23 January 1849, AONSW, 4/2842 49/1917.

18 Bidwill, J. C. to William Hooker, 20 November 1849, Kew Gardens, Australian letters, 1834-51, Vol 43.

19 Bidwill, J. C. to Chief Commissioner for Crown Lands, 14 October 1852, John Oxley Library, A2.48.315.

20 Blake, T. Allom, R., Original Maryborough Site: an Historical Study (Maryborough: Maryborough City Council, 1988), 22.

21 Bidwill, C. to Chief Commissioner for Crown Lands, 30 May 1851, AONSW 4/7173 43/51.

22 Herbert, ‘Bidwill, John Carne’, 98.

23 Moore, C. to Colonial Secretary, 16 August 1854, John Oxley Library, A2.48/455.

24 C. Moore to Colonial Secretary, 27 May 1854, AONSW, 4/7173 54/666.

25 C. Moore to Colonial Secretary, 27 May 1854, AONSW, 4/7173 54/666.

26 Although Petrie failed to be recognised for his part in the ‘discovery’ of the bunya, he received ample recognition for his expeditions in South-East Queensland and his contribution to the development of early Brisbane in the naming of streets, suburbs, mountains, creeks and other physical features. This did not stop the Petrie family from still pursuing the claim that Andrew Petrie deserved recognition for his role. In 1906, Andrew Petrie's grand-daughter engaged in correspondence with J. H. Maiden, the Director of the Sydney Botanic Gardens, about the respective claims of Petrie and Bidwill (Sydney Morning Herald, 31 May, 9, 18 and 20 June 1906).

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‘This Noble Tree’: J. C. Bidwill and the Naming of the Bunya Pine

  • Thom Blake

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