New Zealand plants introduced by Chinese?

veldkamp Veldkamp at NHN.LEIDENUNIV.NL
Mon Jul 26 11:40:22 CDT 2004

Of the plants mentioned in this paper at least two occur in the high
mountains of New Guinea: Hierochloe redolens and Rorippa palustris. Without
a label indicating provenance it is impossible to say where a gathering has
come from. I once tried to distinguish the New Guinea representatives of
Oxalis magellanica from the Australian / New Zealand / Chili collections,
but couldn't. Certainly the Chinese fleet did not get into New Guinea's
central Highlands...

These species are part of a syndrome that has been called the Nothofagus
distribution, where the same species, or much related ones are presently
distributed from S America over New Zealand and Australia and even into
Malesia. An explanation that they 'hopped over' via Antarctica when it was
still habitable does not seem possible because of the time factor involved.
Grasses are presently believed to have originated in the Eocene and not in
the (end) Cretaceous, as is found in some manuals. Moreover, Hierochloe is
quite derived, which makes it even more recent.


At 06:21 AM 7/22/2004, you wrote:
>Dear All,
>       I watched with interest a program on PBS tonight about the ideas of
> Gavin Menzies (that a Chinese fleet circumnavigated the world in 1421 and
> discovered America in the process).  That the Chinese reached South
> Africa seems undisputed, but that they crossed the Atlantic is very much
> disputed (most notably by Chinese scholars).  I must admit I am likewise
> somewhat skeptical about the crossing of the Atlantic in 1421.
>       So how does this involve taxonomy, you might ask?  Some of the
> evidence for the Chinese circumnavigation seems to revolve around plants
> in New Zealand that are thought by some to have been brought there by the
> Chinese (especially those which occur in tropical America).  Using this
> as evidence of a Chinese circumnavigation in 1421 seems rather
> simplistic, for two reasons: (1) introduction by later Europeans cannot
> be ruled out; and (2) a Chinese circumnavigation of the Pacific Ocean
> (NOT of the world) would fit just as well.
>       I am not disputing that Chinese fleets made extensive oceanic
> explorations in the early 15th Century----only that they may have been
> confined to the Indian and Pacific Oceans (and that the Atlantic
> excursions are perhaps a product of Menzies' imagination).  But having
> learned of Menzies' ideas only a few hours ago, I certainly have not
> formed a solid opinion (just my initial reactions as related
> above).  Anyway, here is a sampling of the part of the evidence that
> relates to the New Zealand flora (and which seems rather flimsy as an
> argument for a Chinese circumnavigation of the world in 1421):
>                   ----Cheers,
>                           Ken Kinman

Dr. J.F. Veldkamp
Nationaal Herbarium Nederland, Universiteit Leiden branch
POB 9514
2300 RA Leiden
The Netherlands
e-mail: veldkamp at
tel.: + 31 0715 27 35 49
fax: + 31 0715 27 35 11
home tel.: + 31 0715 15 32 87

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