The information Beccari sent re. the flora of NW New Guinea is similar to what H. O. Forbes reports about SE New Guinea. Wallace adds his own observations on NW New Guinea.
A typical letter handwritten by author in English and signed by author.
An original MS
Pages with text: 4
Transcriber: Lester, Ahren
Transcription date: June 5, 2013
Signed off: no
Prof. O. Beccari
I beg to thank you for your interesting letter, promising to send me, later, the information as to the number of Phanerogamous plants in Sicily, Italy, and some other Provinces or Islands which are to be had.
Your information about the flora of New Guinea is very interesting to me. I have received somewhat similar [] information from Mr. H. O. Forbes1 who collected in the S.E. of New Guinea as you did in the N.W., and he tells me that the lower coast lands up to about 800 feet above the sea-level were poor in species, and very similar to N. Australia; but that at greater elevations the flora became much richer and more peculiar, and he thinks quite as rich as Sumatra where he also made large collections. But they were all deposited in
the British Museum and have not been yet worked out. I hear that an English expedition is now going [] to attempt to reach the great central mountains, where, no doubt they will find a very rich flora and much novelty.
Your remarks about the Palms of New Guinea as compared with those of Borneo are very interesting. I have recently obtained some details as to the Flora of the Philippine Islands, from Mr. E.D. Merrill of Manilla.2 Over 100 species of Palms are already known while the whole of the Malay Peninsula much longer known and more explored has only 142 species.
My own observations in N.W. New Guinea (Dorey, Waigiou & Aru Is[lands].) showed me that all that region has been upraised recently, [it] being [] almost all "coral" rock, but to what elevation I could not ascertain. But that fact may account for the comparative poverty and uniformity of the coast flora, as that rock would soon be occupied by plants suitable for it, mostly quite unlike those of the older virgin forests at higher elevations.
I assure you that your writing of English is excellent, both the grammar, idioms and caligraphy[sic], and there is hardly a sentence in it that might not have been written by an Englishman.
Yours very truly | Alfred R. Wallace [signature]
1. Henry Ogg Forbes (1851-1932). Scottish explorer, ornithologist and botanist.He travelled in the Moluccas and New Guinea and served as director of the Canterbury Museum in New Zealand from 1890 to 1893 before he moved to Liverpool. Here he served as consulting director of museums until his death.
2. Elmer Drew Merrill (1876-1956). American botanist. After the Spanish-American War (1898) Merrill was sent to the Philippines as a botanist by the government. He remained there for 22 years ultimately becoming Director of the Bureau of Sciences and Professor of Botany at the University of the Philippines. He published the Flora of Manila (1912) and Enumeration of Philippine Flowering Plants (1922-26). During the Second World War he was consulted about useful plants and compiled the handbook on Emergency Food Plants and Poisonous Plants of the Islands of the Pacific. From 1929 to 1935 he served as the Director of the New York Botanical Garden.
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