To the Memory







There is perhaps no other spot in the whole world which geographically presents so great an interest to the naturalist as St. Helena. A small Island, distinctly of volcanic origin, bearing no trace whatever of any continental land having existed nearer to it than a thousand miles or more, and yet possessing plants and insects that have not been found elsewhere in the world, at once suggest the inquiry, How did these things get there? The interest attaching to such a question was revealed to me by the late Sir William Hooker, about thirteen years ago, when he led me to see in the peculiar Fauna and Flora of such a spot subjects of the greatest scientific value. Subsequently encouraged by Dr. Hooker, C.B., F.R.S., General Sir Edward Sabine, R.A., K.C.B., F.R.S., Mr. T. Vernon Wollaston, M.A., F.L.S., Dr. Gunther, F.R.S., F.Z.S., Dr. Gray, F.R.S., Mr. Francis Walker, F.L.S., Mr. J. Gwyn Jeffreys, F.R.S., the Rev. O. P. Cambridge, M.A., Mr. H. W. Bates, F.Z.S., and others, I realized the importance of some attempt being made to commence an account of the Fauna and Flora of what may be termed the South Atlantic Archipelago, comprising St. Helena, Ascension Island, Trinidad with Martin Vaz Rocks, Tristan d'Acunha with Nightingale and Inaccessible Islands, Gough's Island, Fernando Noronha near Cape St. Roque in South America, St. Paul's and St. Thomas's Islands near the Equator, Anno Bon off the coast of tropical Africa, and Possession Island on the coast of Southern Africa. A carefully prepared, and systematically arranged, account of the productions of each of these places, and a comparison between them and the productions of the adjacent continents of South America and South Africa, would doubtless reveal many truths in which science would delight; but such a work would occupy an amount of time and labour far surpassing that which one person, even were he free from official duties, could possibly supply.

That a commencement, however, as a sort of foundation whereon others might continue to build, should be made, seemed to me desirable, as a first step whereby a whole might ultimately be attained. It being my lot to be stationed at St. Helena, I have endeavoured, with the limited time at my disposal, to make that Island a starting point in such a work ; and if it appears presumptuous to publish the little I have been able to achieve, I would explain, that it is done with the hope that others, who have the opportunity, may take up the thread of the subject, and add the Fauna and Flora of some one or more of the other Islands, until all shall be completed.

It is evident that as each year passes it becomes more and more difficult to distinguish between the really indigenous species and those which have followed in the track of civilization ; but the difficulty is not so great as at first sight appears, if peculiar circumstances are observed, localities carefully noted, and the collections investigated, as mine have been, by eminently scientific men. My warmest thanks are due not only to those gentlemen I have already mentioned, but others also, who have examined and described my specimens, and in many ways, with much kindness and courtesy, encouraged and assisted me in my undertaking ; especially Mr. Francis Walker, who has named nearly the whole of my insects, excepting the Coleoptera, and permitted me to use his original descriptions of new species.* I have myself endeavoured to aim at accuracy, and not having collected elsewhere, I can claim exemption from the possibility of my specimens having become mixed with any from other places.

Those species which are without doubt indigenous to the Island are distinguished by an asterisk prefixed to their names, while others have their chief habitat denoted. To each I have endeavoured to add the local name or some short description, by which it may be readily recognised by persons who may be interested in continuing to collect, but who cannot spare the necessary time to make a full study of the subject.

My ideas on the geological formation of the Island were formed, and my notes thereon written, before I met with the account written by Mr. Darwin, after his short visit to the Island in the Beagle,

* Since this preface was written, I have, with very great regret, learned of the death of Mr. Walker, and I would wish to thank Mr. Janson for kindly correcting the proofs of Mr. Walker's original descriptions.

thirty years ago, and before I had the pleasure of examining the Island in company with Captain J. R. Oliver, R.A., a few years ago, who subsequently published a pamphlet on the subject ; and it is extremely satisfactory to me to find that in the main points we are all unanimous in opinion as to the geological construction of the Island.

Mr. Andrew Murray, F.L.S., in a very interesting paper, recently published,* on the geographical relations of the chief Coleopterous Fauna, taking as a basis the theory of "continuity of soil at some former period," to explain the present geographical distribution of plants and animals over the globe, expresses his conviction "that there has been one, possibly two, great continental routes of communication between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, both now lying buried in the ocean, the one at the bottom of the Atlantic, the other in the depths of the Pacific;" and points to St. Helena as a crucial test of the hypothesis of a communication between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres by an Atlantic continent. Mr. Roland Trimen, F.L.S., F.Z.S., having himself visited some of the Atlantic islands, shows in a subsequent paper,† with some lucid notes, a disinclination to favour this theory of dispersal, and refers to the opinion of Mr. Darwin (Orig. of Spec., 4th edit. p. 427) as being also unfavourable to such an hypothesis. As regards the Oceanic Islands, of which St. Helena forms a type, it seems to me that the hypothesis is not in any way borne out by investigation of the geological structure of the Island, but, on the contrary, every characteristic of that volcanic mass seems to point to an entirely insular land of vast antiquity.

No branch of Natural History is perhaps so calculated to convey a correct idea of a place as its Botany, and a careful and full account of even its exotic plants and flowers, with the particulars and peculiarities which surround them, would in this respect not be without some value. I have therefore endeavoured to make my list include every plant that is found in the Island; and in doing so I have had the aid of Dr. Roxburgh's Catalogue, and also been fortunate enough, through the kindness of Dr. Hooker, to have my own collection examined and identified at the Kew Herbarium, where I have received much kind and ready assistance from

* Journal Linn. Soc.., vol. xi. No. 49, 1870.

† Ibid. No. 52, 1871.

the staff of botanists. I am also indebted to Mr. Helmsley for assistance in this portion of the work.

My collections of Mosses, Lichens, Fungi, and Seaweeds have respectively been examined and reported on by Mr. William Mitten, F.L.S., the Rev. W. Allport Leighton, B.A., F.L.S., the Rev. M. J. Berkeley, M.A., F.L.S., and Professor Dickey, F.L.S., to whom I would offer my best thanks ; especially to Mr. Mitten and Mr. Berkeley for original descriptions and drawings of new species.

To Dr. Hooker I am extremely indebted for placing at my disposal the whole of Dr. Burchell's valuable collection of sketches, from which, and the "Icones Plantarum," Mrs. Melliss has added to her drawings of the Indigenous Plants the enlarged details of the flowers.

The Historical Notes have been gathered chiefly from old records and documents preserved in the Government Office at St. Helena, as well as from Brook's "History of St. Helena" (a book now long out of print, and for the possession of which I am indebted to the kindness of Colonel Ward, late of H.M. 91st Regiment), and have been added for the information of those whose interest in the Island may have been increased through residing at or visiting it.

The Meteorological Tables, given in the Appendix, are quoted from the published account of "Five Years' Observations at Longwood," under the direction of General Sir Edward Sabine, R.A.


LONDON, January, 1875.


           III.—ZOOLOGY 79
           IV.—BOTANY 221
           V.—METEOROLOGY 384


Page 1, for "5° 49' west longitude," read "5° 42' west longitude."
    "    line 8 from bottom, for "green" read "clad."
    "    85, for "Calla" read "Richardia."
    "    93, for "terebrata" read "religiosa."
    "    94, for "Salsola" read "Schoberia."
    "    134, 135, 136, for "Nitioxenus" read "Notioxenus."
    "    245, Genus MELHANIA should also have for synonym PENTAPETES, Forst.
                 Species No. 95, should also have for synonym Dombeya erythroxylon,
                     Willd. and Pentapetes erythroxylon, Bot. Mag. t. 1000.
                 Species No. 96, should also have for synonym Dombeya erythroxylon,
                     Andr. Bot. Repos. vi. t. 389, not of Willdenow.
    "    255, Species Nos. 155, 156, 157 should be placed under PITTOSPORÆ.
    "    286, Plate 37, for "rugosum" read "glutinosus."
    "    356, for "Dicksonia arborea" read "Dicksonia arborescens."


Notes about this version of Melliss:

The title page, plates, and text were scanned from an original copy of Melliss. OCR software was used to generate a text file which was carefully proof-read against the original.

Contributed by Barry Weaver.

Details of the original:
Melliss, J.C. St. Helena: A Physical, Historical, and Topographical Description of the Island, including its Geology, Fauna, Flora, and Meteorology. Reeve, London, 1875.
Size: Octavo.
Text: Half-title (verso blank); Title (verso with imprint London: Savill, Edwards and Co., Printers, Chandos Street, Covent Garden); Dedication (verso blank); Preface, pages vii to x; Contents (one leaf, Errata et Addenda on verso); Illustrations list (one leaf); Text, pages 1 to 426; Advertisements, 16 pages.
Plates: One plate, Map of the South Atlantic Ocean.
Eight plates (tinted lithographs) of general views, signed Vincent Brooks, Lith.
Two plates, Geological Map ... and Geological Section ...
Seven plates (uncoloured lithographs) of geological features, signed J.C. Melliss, delt and E. W. Robinson, lith.; imprint L. Reeve & Co. London.
One plate (coloured lithograph) of the wire-bird, signed J.G. Keulemans, lith. and M. & N. Hanhart, imp.; imprint L. Reeve & Co. London.
Five plates of fauna (coloured lithographs), signed J.C. Melliss, delt and E. W. Robinson, lith.; imprint L. Reeve & Co. London.
Thirty-two plates of flora (coloured lithographs), signed J.N. Fitch del et lith and Vincent Brooks Day & Son Imp.; imprint L. Reeve & Co. London.

British Library shelfmark: and 919.97 *3675*
Library of Congress call number: Not in the catalogue.

Last updated: 20 December, 2011

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