Upon the receit of your obliging letter of the 20 of December, I wrote to
Doctor Solander to call and spend a day with me; accordingly he came a few days
ago, and I shew’d him all your Letters to me, and beg’d the favour of him, that he
would send you an assortment of all the plants, which he & M[iste]r Banks had [a][a] : MS. 1 had [added above the
line] collected on the Voyage. He assur’d me that he would do it, and also would send you as many of the descriptions as he could get copied; but he is doubtful whether he can send you those of the Animal kingdom. I desired he might send them to the Care of Charles Lindegren, who has promis’d to send them to you by the first Ship. I shall not let him depart this kingdom in peace, unless he pays that respect to you which I know he owes you, for the pains you have taken to qualify him for the company of our King, and the greatest people in this kingdom. M[iste]r Banks is taking great pains to preserve the animals in Spirits, at a very great expence, but I fear we shall not live to see them describ’d. This Voyage towards the S[outh] Pole is more to please the head of our Admiralty, Lord Sandwich, than is consistent with prudence. They would have had[b][b] : MS. 1 had [added above the
line] employment enough for 7 years, to have finishd completely what they have discoverd.
Many of their seeds are destroyd by the boxes being obligd to be exposd on the
Shore to the heat of the sun, and bad weather, when they had like to be lost on the
coast of New Holland. I hope I shall be able, in the Spring, to raise the seeds of a most
valuable plant, which they call Chlamydia, from the people of New Zealand, in
the latitude of 40 d[egrees] South, making themselves cloaks of it. It seems to have
leaves like an Aloe or Yucca; the flowers are hexapetalous and
ringent, and the Seed vessel is above the receptacle. Solander says, it comes nearest
to the Hemerocallis. From[c][c] : MS. 1 From [added above the
line] the leaves of this the natives prepare a fibrous Substance, like the best Flax; these fibres they connect together in a very new and curious manner with a needle and thread, so as to form very durable and convenient Garments.
As the seeds of it were all destroyd by the sunshine & bad weather, I beg’d Solander to let me look at the Specimens which they had preservd in papers, and was so fortunate as to find several seed vessels perfectly sound and full of ripe seeds. I have got some of them from him, & given them to our best Gardiners, and have examind them in the Microscope, and find the Germ in the Seed perfectly sound. I suppose you will have some sent you in your Specimens. I find seed vessels will preserve their seeds a very long time.
You ask me some questions about the Ipomaea; in answer, it is not lactescent. I do not remember whether it is bilocularis or trilocularis. I think the fruit opens at top. The seeds are not many in proportion to the size of the loculament; they are angular in respect to form.
I have rec’d specimens of the Brownaea, from Tobago, preservd in Spirits,
and some seeds in pods. I shewd them to Solander, and desird him to compare
Loefling, & Jacquin’s descriptions. He thinks Jacquin’s interior corolla is properly a
Nectarium. The seed vessel is very strong and coriaceous. It is a Legumen of
5 Inches long, with 2 large seeds like Tamarind seeds, but much larger & rough; many
of them are shorter, and contain but one seed and the pod is in shape as p Margin
[illustration in the left margin]. When the seed vessel bursts open, it is with
great force, to discharge the seeds; for the valves immediately curl up in a spiral
manner, and there is no bringing them back [d][d] : MS. 1 back [added above the
line] to their form without breaking them. I think Loefling’s description better than Jacquin’s. The French inhabitants at Tobago and Grenada call it bastard Courbaril, and Rosa de Monte. It is a most beautiful flower. I mentiond, on the other side, that seeds were a long time preservd sound in their Seed Vessels, an Instance of which I lately tried. When Doctor Alexander Russel came from Aleppo, he brought with him about the year 1755, some seeds of the Convolvulus Scammonia, sav’d in the year 1754. In looking over my Seeds last year, I found some few Seed Vessels full of Seeds of this Convolvulus which he had given me. I immediately gave them to a Gardiner in my neighbourhood, and I can assure you several of them came up, and continued to g[row] during the last[e][e] : MS. 1 last [added above the
line] Summer 1771; so that they were out of ground near[f][f] : MS. 1 near [added above the
line] 17 years. I kept them in a paper in the drawer of my bureau, in the room where I generally sit.
The most curious animal that I think they have brought home is the skin of a four
footed beast, like the Mus Jaculus, or Jerboa, described in Edwards. It seems to be
about 3 feet & a half high, standing on its hind legs, it weighed (if I remember right) 80
pounds, and was too swift for their Greyhounds, so that they were oblig’d to shoot it. I
think they say it differs from the Mus Jaculus, but I shall enquire of Solander
more particularly about it. They have added very little to my Zoophytes; and could not
distinguish the animal of the Tubipora, though the rocks were coverd with it. It
was coverd over[g][g] : MS. 1 over [added above the
line] with a mucilage; but they at that time had their lives to think of, by endeavouring to get the ship off the rocks.