H. forsteriana, its discovery and naming

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H. forsteriana, its discovery and naming

The recent article on the "Kentia" palm (Walkley 1995) prompts some comments on the discovery and naming of this popular plant. The "Kentia" palm was first jointly named as Kentia forsteriana by C. Moore and F. Mueller. The name was based on a collection of seeds by Charles Moore that were forwarded to Ferdinand Mueller in Melbourne (Mueller 1870). Mueller never visited Lord Howe Island, and as with many of the taxa named by him, was dependent on collections made by others (Willis 1990). Moore, who was Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney, made a brief visit to Lord Howe Island in 1869 (Green 1994a) and undoubtedly collected the material of this palm, as well as Howea belmoreana (C.Moore & F. Muell.) Becc., Lepidorrhachis mooreana (F. Muell.) O.F. Cook and Hedyscepe canterburyana (C.Moore & F. Muell.) H.Wendl. & Drude, at this time. It was not an unusual practice for Mueller to accredit co-authorship to others, particularly if they were botanists of importance. Hence the correct author citation for the "Kentia" palm is Howea forsteriana (C.Moore & EMuell.) Becc.

In Green's (1994b) account the type citation for Howea forsteriana is given as "T: Lord Howe Island, C.Moore; holo: MEL. Named in honour of William Forster, at one time Senator in New South Wales." Examination of material of Howea forsteriana at the National Herbarium of Victoria (MEL) found that the only material under this name is an undated collection by C. Moore of seeds only that also does not have any locality data (M. Duretto, pers. comm. May 1995). This material is not in a red type folder at MEL but should undoubtedly be regarded as type material despite the lack of locality data. It should be noted in passing that many of the taxa named by Mueller often are difficult to typify because of poor labelling of that period.

Finally, who was William Forster? Mudler (1870) stated that the specific name he chose was to honour a Senator for New South Wales, viz. "nomen viri permagno aestimandi Guiliehno Forster, Neo-Cambriae digni Senatoris ibique disciplinarum fautoris". The etymological information is repeated both by Jones (1991 ) and Green (1994b) but with no further elaboration. Forster ( 1818-1882) had in fact been Premier of New South Wales for a short period from 1859 to 1860 and was related to the Blaxland family of early exploration fame (Naim et al. 1969), so is perhaps not as obscure as the passing mentions associated with the "Kentia" palm would indicate.


thanks to Marco Duretto (MEL) for locating material of Howea forsteriana at that institution, and to Peter Bostock (BRI) for commenting on this note.


Green, P.S. (1994a). Norfolk Island and Lord Howe Island. In A.J.G.Wilson (ed.), Flora of Australia 49: 1-26. Australian Government Publishing Service: Canberra.

Green, P.S. (1994b). Arecaceae. In A.J.G.Wilson (ed.), Flora of Australia 49: 407- 412. Australian Government Publishing Service: Canberra.

Jones, D.L. (1991). Palms in Australia. Reed Books Pry Ltd.: Balgowlah (New South Wales). Mueller, F. (1870). Palmac. Fragmenta Phytographiae Australiae 7: 99- 104.

Nairn, N.B., Serle, A.G. & Ward, R.G. (eds.) (1969). Australian Dictionary of Biography. Vol. 3: 1851-1890. Melbourne University Press: Melbourne.

Walkley, J. (1995). Lord Howe - the home of "Kentia". Palms & Cycads 46: 2-5.

Willis, J.H. (1990). Melbourne: a focal point for early botanical activity. In P.S.Short (ed.), History of Systematic Botany in Australasia. pp. 1-5. Adstralian Systematic Botany Society Inc.: Melbourne.

Contributed by:

Paul I. Forster (from Palms & Cycads Oct - Dec 1995).

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