Journal Number 109
August 2008


EPONYMOUS ORCHIDS

By Val Smith

Harry Carse (1857-1930)
Anzybas carsei

William and Rebecca Carse (née McIntosh) were of Scottish descent; their son Harry was born in the small town of Leek, in Staffordshire, England. After receiving most of his education at Musselburgh near Edinburgh, Harry Carse worked in banking until 1885, when he emigrated to New Zealand. In Auckland, at the age of 28, he married Margaret Philip with whom he had a family of five - three daughters and two sons.

During his first years in New Zealand Carse took whatever work was available. However, when he became better known he was offered teaching positions in the Auckland area, and in 1893 was appointed to the Kaitaia School where he met Richard Henry Matthews, a foundation member of the school committee. They had a mutual interest in native plants, became friends - and pursued their botanical interests in earnest!

In 1896 Matthews wrote the first of many letters to Cheeseman with reports of their finds, observations and specimens for identification. From his next teaching posts at Maungatapere, and Mauku in South Auckland, Carse corresponded with Cheeseman, and also Petrie, while keeping in contact with Matthews and spending summer holidays collecting with him. Then, in 1902, Carse gave up teaching to go dairy farming.

He bought land at Kaiaka near Kaitaia and continued his botanical projects, working closely with Matthews. Four years later he was appointed teacher at the nearby Fairburn School - close enough to not interfere with milking! After Richard Henry Mathews died in 1912, his son Blen became Carse's closest friend and botanical companion. Carse wrote the last of over 100 letters to Cheeseman from Kaiaka. In 1921 he and his wife retired to Auckland where the young botanists Lucy Moore and Lucy Cranwell, who often visited, noted that his herbarium seemed to occupy half of his small home. He kept collecting as long as he could, and died on 25 November 1930.

Harry Carse was described as a gentleman with a kindly and genial nature and a readiness to help others. Largely self-taught, his main work was with the ferns and sedges; his most important publication, On the Flora of the Mangonui County (1911). Another major contribution to New Zealand botany was the encouragement he gave Amy Hodgson to pursue the study of liverworts, in which she became the New Zealand authority. Among the seven or so plants named in his honour, was the orchid Corysanthes carsei (now Anzybas carsei) that he and Harry Blencowe Matthews relocated in 1912, two years after Blen's original discovery.

 

Anzybas carsei
Helmet Orchid (Orchid family - Orchidaceae)

Anzybas: a new genus (2002) of six species endemic to Australia and New Zealand, the name a derivation of Australia/New Zealand and Corybas, the genus from which they were split; carsei: after its co-discoverer Harry Carse, who made a major contribution to the botanical knowledge of the far north.

This is New Zealand's rarest endemic orchid, now known from only one spot in an Empodisma bog in the lower Waikato, where it flowers in September. Anzybas carsei has a single small green heart-shaped leaf, and a comparatively large reddish-purple flower; the lateral sepals and petals are shorter that the labellum, and the tip of the dorsal sepal is deeply cleft. The species has long gone from where it was first found - the draining of Lake Tangonge and subsequent drying out of the bog, plus over-zealous collecting, would have left it little chance of survival.

Anzybas carsei
 Drawings by Bruce Irwin, from Bruce Irwin's drawings of New Zealand orchids .

 

 

 

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