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Letters on the Culture of the Vine Part 3: Grape Varieties and Diseases

Letter III – Choice of Varieties of the Vine

Olivier des Serres makes the selection of proper sorts of grapes, the third requisite, in point of importance, in the formation of a good vineyard. The following passage is from a modern French author, whom I have already quoted. “The varieties which yield the best wines, generally produce very little; besides it is only in certain favored positions that they furnish produce which becomes celebrated for its quality. Sorts producing wine of a second class usually yield more certainly and more abundantly; while those of an inferior class produce, probably, still more abundantly, and the profits derived from them are often greater and more certain”.

“Whoever meditates the planting of a vineyard, ought first to study well the nature of the soil he proposes to plant, If he judges it to be well adapted for the production of fine wines; if he is in a position to transport them without difficulty to a market; if besides, his circumstances are such as not to oblige him to press their early sale, he ought not to hesitate about choosing varieties of the first class. Prudence, on the contrary, counsels him to plant those of the second or third class, if the soil is not of the most promising kind for quality, if he has no other opening than the consumption of a neighborhood not in affluent circumstances, or finally, distillation”.

The advice contained in the last paragraph is perfectly sound. There are thousands of acres in the colony capable of producing large crops of wine of middling quality, if planted with some of the more fruitful varieties of the vine, but which, if sorts of higher reputation are used, will not yield a wine of greatly improved quality, while the quantity may be very much reduced: or, in other words the improvement in the quality will not be nearly commensurate with the diminution of the produce. Therefore, besides studying well the nature of the soil, he who plants should also possess some information with respect to the qualities of the vines he may have at command. Even where there is abundant warmth to bring every sort to maturity, a difference of from five to six weeks occurs between the ripening of the earliest and the latest. There are, besides, many sorts (some of them common) which vegetate vigorously, but neither produce abundantly, nor of a quality adapted for even a tolerable wine.

The principal object of this paper is to attempt to impart to those colonists who may require it, the information requisite to enable them to choose with judgment the sorts most likely to answer their purpose. To this end I shall endevour to describe a limited number of the varieties of vine, upon which I have had more or less opportunity of making experiments.

I would beg, however, to impress upon your readers, that the subject is one of so much difficulty, that to arrive at sound conclusions upon it, would require not the experiments of a single individual only however carefully conducted, but the experience of whole districts, for a long series of years. The remarks I have to offer must therefore be very imperfect. Nevertheless my observations, limited as they, of necessity, have been, are based, I believe, upon sound principles, and will probably prove useful to the majority of your readers who take an interest in the cultivation of the vine.

The number of sorts I have had in bearing amounts to more than 170, selected chiefly, and not altogether at random, from the immense collection of vines imported by Mr. James Busby, and deposited by him in the Botanic Garden, at Sydney. This collection (or rather collections, for there are three of them) amounting originally to more than 500 varieties, all from France, was procured, as many of your readers probably know, at Mr. Busby’s expense, during a visit he made to that country, in the year 1830, and was derived chiefly from the national collections which exist in the Botanic Gardens of Montpelier, and of the Luxembourg. But the most valuable portion, called his private collection, was procured by Mr. Busby in person, in traveling through the districts in which the greater part are cultivated.

Deeply as the colony is indebted to that gentleman for his zeal and industry in providing so valuable an accession to its resources, the obligation would, in my opinion, have been incalculably greater, had at least five-sixths of the number been omitted, and none imported but those which are of known reputation in the wine districts for some desirable quality. It the colonists failed to make good wine from some of the 60 or 80 valuable sorts, which might in this case have been brought out in sufficient quantity to ensure their introduction, and their identity, the attempt to make it from the 300 or 400 worthless, or comparatively worthless, which might as well have been left behind, would surely have been rather hopeless.

But as it has fallen out, owing to the great number of sorts, but a very few cuttings (generally only one or two) of each could be conveniently imported; and through the confusion, almost unavoidable, in the transplantation and subsequent management of such an extensive collection, many numbers have been misplaced. It has thus become impossible to identify a number of valuable varieties, the names of which are in the catalogue, and no doubt some (for they are frequently the most delicate) are altogether lost. It deserves notice, that the sixty-five sorts collected by Mr. Busby in person, comprise as many valuable varieties, probably as the whole of the remainder; of which, as I have before said, I consider a large portion comparatively worthless for wine making.

In the following descriptions of wine grapes, I have included all that I have hitherto ascertained to possess qualities which promise to be valuable to the cultivation of vineyards, and it may appear surprising that out of such abundance I should have chosen so few.

That there are many more varieties of wine grapes in Mr. Busby’s collections which merit cultivation there can be no question, but it is a matter of considerable difficulty to distinguish them. If the catalogue be adopted to choose by, it is so inaccurate, that those plants which should produce white grapes very frequently prove to bear black, and vice versa. If, on the other hand, the flavour and general character of the grape be taken as a guide, there is, owing to the ravages committed by the birds, and the consequent necessity of putting the bunches into bags, a difficulty, amounting almost to an impossibility, in obtaining the fruit at the Botanic Gardens, in a state of sufficient perfection to form any estimate of its qualities.

Out of one hundred and forty varieties which I procured from thence, for the purpose of proving them and ascertaining their qualities, after several years careful cultivation, I have only been able to select, as likely to be good wine grapes, the twenty sorts I am about to describe. The greater part of the remainder, excepting a few fine table grapes, I have destroyed, as being inapplicable to any good purpose with me, and as affording little hope of becoming valuable to other persons, who may possess vineyards more favorably situated than the one which I have had under my care, for bringing to complete perfection the fruit of the later ripening varieties.

Although there is no doubt that in these extensive collections many are really the sorts specified in the catalogues, and that the better varieties of those which are correctly named will hereafter prove of extreme value to the colony, I much fear that the majority are not to be depended upon. The immense assemblage of sorts introduced at once caused them to be planted much too close together. The more vigorous (usually the least valuable) had thus a tendency to starve, and ultimately to destroy, their more precious, but less robust neighbors, and hence, probably, one cause that some of the latter are missing. Their disappearance has also without doubt increased the confusion which has existed, from the very first, amongst the numbers.

It has proved an additional misfortune to this magnificent assemblage of varieties of the vine, that the gentleman to whose zeal and public spirit the colonists of N. S. Wales are indebted for its existence, should, through his absence at New Zealand, have been precluded from watching over its progress, and thus to have prevented much of the mischief which has since accrued. His original error consisted, as I think, in having attempted too much, but it has been vastly aggravated by circumstances over which he could have no control.

It may be advisable also to mention another circumstance which has perhaps tended to create confusion amongst Mr. Busby’s vines, I mean carelessness, and I fear I must add occasionally want of good faith on the part of those persons who originally supplied them. The same causes have, on previous occasions, operated to dishearten, and greatly to impede the efforts of those persons amongst us, who were the first to attempt the cultivation of the vine. Twice to my knowledge have collections of vines which, many years since, were sent to the colony from celebrated wine districts, as the best varieties cultivated in them, proved, after the lapse of years, to be spurious; and on another occasion, more than twenty-five years ago, a collection made with great care, in a number of the best vineyards, from the foot of the Pyrenees to the wine districts of Burgundy and Champagne, and which were left for a year under the care of a nursery-man near London, afforded after several years cultivation in the colony, only two wine grapes that were new to it. The remainder consisting of common garden varieties cultivated in England. What became of the numerous varieties of fine wine grapes of which the collection should chiefly have consisted was never known,

These facts are sufficient to shew that too much caution cannot he used (“crede mihi experto” [Believe me, I know what I'm talking about!]) in extending the cultivation of any sort, whatever it maybe described to be, until its identity be proved, or its probable good qualities be tolerably evident. In all, save the very best vineyards, there are worthless sorts, which the cultivators are either too indolent, or too blind to their true interest to extirpate, and there is a disposition frequently to be met with on the part of vignerons to substitute these inferior varieties when they believe they are to be sent to a distance. In justice to the French people I ought to add, that neither of the two spurious collections above mentioned were from France. They were brought from other countries, and passed in fact through the hands of British merchants. Every person who has traveled in France in pursuit of information connected with its agriculture, will, I am sure, hear testimony to the urbanity and obliging disposition commonly manifested towards strangers by the people of the country, and their desire to communicate useful information.

Varieties of the Vine

First Division

Consisting of varieties from their hardiness of constitution and the early maturity of their fruit, are considered to be best adapted to the colder districts of the Colony, numbered, as nearly as possible, in the order in which they ripen.

No. 1 – Pineau Gris (No. 56/1, of the 1st, or Mr. Busby’s private collection in the Botanic Gardens, but misnamed in the catalogue Carbenet Sauvignon, which does not exist there). Small pink or greyish grape, which sets in small close clusters; very early ripe, very sugary and sweet to the palate, bears little, but is excellent for wine, a very hardy plant, but requiring several years to attain sufficient vigour to produce fruit, requires very little room, never exceeding 4ft. by 2ft. 6ins., and in the colder districts may be planted at 3ft. by 2ft. This is the most promising wine grape I have been enabled to select for an elevated cold region. It may be expected to yield under proper management from 200 to 400 gallons to the acre, according to the soil and season.

No. 2 – White Grape (No. 57/1, or No. 57 of Mr. Busby’s private collection, misnamed in the catalogue Malbec, which is not there). Tolerably well provided with saccharine matter, but very sharp to the taste, very early ripe, bears rather better than the preceding, and at an earlier age. Though of rather more vigorous growth, may be planted at the same distance as No. 1. Planted upon stony soils, it may contribute, mixed with others, to produce a fine wine, but should never, I think, be used alone

No.3 – Dolcetto (85/3, or No. 85 of Mr. Busby’s 3rd or Montpelier collection). Black grape, very early ripe, sugary, generally very productive, but uncertain, yields an agreeably flavoured red wine of good body, but not of good colour. The clusters large, with round berries closely [loosely in the original publication, change listed in errata] set. It is in very hot weather subject to disease or accident, called by gardeners “shanking off”, that is the stems, or portions of the stems, of the bunches become withered after the berries change colour, but before they are ripe. The latter in consequence remain quite acidic and unfit for wine, and usually but not always, drop off by the time the uninjured portions attain perfect maturity. Such of the damaged berries as remain should be carefully removed previously to crushing the grapes.

No. 4 - Australian White Cluster. Seedling raised at Camden by the Messrs. Macarthur, a plant of vigorous growth, very hardy, fruit very early ripe, bunches small, or of medium size, berries small, very closely set, very juicy, and thin skinned: very sweet to the palate; very liable to rot if much rain falls after they begin to swell to maturity, produces well, and yields a wine of good flavour and considerable body. This and No. 3 require about one-fourth more distance every way than No. 1.

No 5. – Australian Small White Cluster. Originated in the same manner as the last; hardy plant, but of much less vigorous growth than No. 4; may be planted at least as close as No.1; very small closely set bunches, very small berries, sweet; and yields very little wine, but of excellent quality.

No. 6. – small Black Cluster, or Burgundy. Black grape of the Pineau family, cultivated nearly thirty years since by Mr. Gregory Blaxland, in his original Vineyard at the Brush Farm, very early ripe, sweet, moderately productive; bears rather better, perhaps, than No. 1. The wine strong, but of rather harsh ?avor, and not usually of good color.

No. 7. – Miller’s Burgundy. Another variety of the Pineau family, with very hoary leaves (also cultivated by Mr. Blaxland in his original vineyard), fruit much resembling the preceding, but rather larger, and scarcely so good, a very hardy plant. I should not, from choice, plant either this or the preceding, although very strong sound good wine may be made from them.

No. 8 – Small Pink Grape. I believe from Germany, very early ripe, bears little, but is probably good for wine.

No. 9 – Small Black Grape. Probably of the Pineau family, also from Germany, bears little, but promising for wine. This and the preceding are small hardy plants and would probably succeed in cold elevated sites. I have never seen their produce made into wine. They should be planted at least as close as No.1. The two previous numbers (6 and 7) require rather more room.

No.10 – Muscat Gris (Grizzly Frontignac). Reddish or greyish brown; a remarkably sweet luscious grape (generally considered to be the richest flavoured grape in Europe), excellent for wine, bears moderately well generally, but not with certainty, grows usually with tolerable vigour, and requires as much room as Nos. 3 and 4: in some situations subject to the blight, a disease I shall mention hereafter.

No. 11 – Muscat Noir (Black Frontignac). Imported from France in 1817, dark purplish brown grape, very sweet and highly flavoured, equally early, but not so rich in flavour as the last, which it much resembles, bears more abundantly, and with more certainty, but the bunches and berries are not usually so fine. Is also subject to the blight, but not to the same extent. An excellent wine grape, requires the same room.

No. 12 – Tinta. Imported by the Australian Agricultural Company, in 1825. Black, with deep red juice, sugary but very austere, not fit to be used alone, but may be very valuable to combine with other grapes for red wine, in the proportion of not exceeding one-fourth (with Nos. 1, 3, 9, and 13, for instance). I have tasted very good wine, in the manufacture of which this grape was used to about the above extent. The bunches are tolerably large, berries small and crowded, produces moderately well. It is said to be cultivated extensively at Madeira, for the manufacture of Tinta Madeira, and to be one of the seven sorts which enter into the composition of the best white wines of the island. A very hardy plant, requiring same room as Nos. 1 and 2.

No. 13 – Black Grape. Of the Pineau family, from Mr. Busby’s collections. (The No. lost, but supposed to be No. 50 or No. 51 of the private collection). Bears little bunches of very small berries, but very sweet; has all the appearance of being a good wine grape for cold districts.

No. 14 – Pineau Blanc (48/1, 52/1, 35/2, or Nos. 48 and 52 of the private collection, and No. 35, of the Luxembourg). One of the most celebrated wine grapes of the North of France, and extensively cultivated in the best vineyards of Burgundy and Champagne. Bunches very small, berries small, very sweet and sugary, produces very little, but of excellent quality; requires same distance as No.1, and may ripen its crop perhaps from ten to fourteen days later.

No. 13 – Meslier Blanc (302/3 or No. 302 of the third or Montpelier collection). More diminutive in every respect than the preceding, bears very little, but of excellent quality; should not exceed three feet by two feet in a vineyard.

Second Division.

Comprising 17 varieties, ripening usually from 10 or 12 to 25 or 30 days later than No. 1. This group also contains varieties better adapted, owing to their greater vigor and luxuriance of growth, for cultivation in the warmer districts of the colony, than the majority of the plants in the first division.

No. 16 – Muscat Rouge (Red Frontignac). Imported by the Australian Agricultural Company in 1825, more delicate in its habit than either of the two varieties of Muscat described above, and rather less productive. Fruit, when ripened in perfection, a bright reddish brown, and very highly flavoured. Subject to the blight.

No. 17 – Muscat Blanc. (White Frontignac, 7/1, 35/1, 307/3, or nos. 7 and 35 of the private collection, and no. 307 of the Montpelier collection). Not so productive apparently as either of the three other varieties of Muscat, but considered to be preferable for wine, to which it imparts a most delicious perfume; is cultivated at Riversaltes, Lunel, Frontignac, and Constantia, and probably at other vineyards where luscious sweet wines are made. It is also calculated, as are other varieties of the same family, to make highly flavoured dry wines, and for this purpose may be used alone or in combination with other kinds of grape; is also subject to the blight.

No. 18 – Raisin Vert (385/3, or No. 385 of the Montpelier collection). White grape, apparently a variety of the Pineau family, more luxuriant in its growth, and more productive than Nos. 1 and 14, but not so rich in saccharine matter; has the appearance of being a good wine grape.

No. 19 – Aucarot (29/2, or 29 of the Luxembourg collection). Hardy white grape, bears plentifully, and makes very good wine. Where abundant produce, combined with medium quality, is an object, this is a variety well worth attention; I am inclined to think it may prove one of the most valuable of the white wine grapes; requires the same room as No. 3

No. 20 - Sauvignon Cendre (355/3, or No. 355 of the Montpelier collection). White grape, bears occasionally immense crops, but is in this respect very variable, is probably a good wine grape. This and No. 18 require rather more room than Nos. 1 and 14.

No. 21 – Epicier (172/3 or No. 172 of the third or Montpelier collection). Black grape, round berries, bunches rather large or of medium size, sweet, bears well, promising for wine. Same room as No. 3.

No. 22 – White Grape (56/2, or No.56 of the 2nd or Luxembourg, collection, (misnamed Chasselas Violet in the catalogue). A remarkably sweet, juicy, thin skinned, delicately flavoured grape, to my taste, the best table grape in the colony, not in the least resembling the family of Chasselas in its habit, moderately productive, but uncertain, the flowers being apt to become abortive. Fruit very liable to burst and rot, if heavy rain falls near the period of maturity, makes delicately flavoured summer wine.

No.23 – White Grape (295/3, or 295 of the Montpelier collection). An excellent grape for wine of medium strength, bearing considerable affinity to the preceding, but much more productive; it bears large beautifully formed bunches, the berries moderately closely set, not liable to burst and rot, excepting under long continued rains. It has the peculiarity of being from 10 to 14 days behind almost every other variety in bursting into leaf, of being late before the fruit commences to swell to maturity, and yet of ripening as early as the greatest part of the varieties in this division. Next to No. 19, it is considered to be the best white grape to cultivate where produce combined with medium strength is an object, and it may even prove to be superior to it. Both this and the last are excellent table grapes.

No. 24 – Gouais (or La Folle, from which is manufactured the finest Cognac Brandy). White grape, imported from France in 1817 [by John Macarthur Snr.], bunches large or medium size, berries large, round, thin-skinned, juicy, and very closely set, moderately sweet. Hardy vigorous plant, producing immense crops, and with tolerable certainty. Has been known to yield as much as 1200 to 1300 gallons to the acre of light, agreeably flavoured wine. In distillation, from 6 to 7 ½ gallons appear to be required for each gallon of spirit at about London proof. If cultivated for distillation, an acre, by the abundant use of manure, could easily be made to yield from 150 to 200 gallons of spirit. Requires same room as No. 3, and in fertile land more.

No. 25 – Riesling. White Grape. Imported in 1838, by Messrs. Macarthur, from the Rhinegau. The only grape cultivated throughout the majority of the most celebrated vineyards on the Rhine. Has not been sufficiently long introduced to estimate the quality or quantity of its produce in the colony; but it is said to produce well in Europe. The fruit has a peculiar spicy flavour, and is not liable to rot during heavy rain.

No. 26 – Verdeilho or Madeira. Imported in 1825, by the Australian Agricultural Company. Small, oblong or oval, white grape. This, all its qualities considered, is the most valuable grape for wine we have hitherto proved in the colony. It produces with tolerable certainty, and more abundantly than any of the varieties of Pineau. Its crops may be estimated at from 300 to 600 gallons, and sometimes even 700 gallons to the acre. The wine rich and generous, evidently capable of being kept for a good number of years. It, however, does not appear to become fit for use until past its fourth year, and even then it improves greatly with age. The bunches are small, the berries small and oval, and generally very thinly set in the bunch. They seem to suffer little, either from excessive heat or long continued rains. The whole of the skin of the berry will sometimes perish, without the slightest damage to the pulp. They, besides, ripen more equally than the grapes of almost any other variety we have. It is liable to have its young shoots broken off during high winds, through their extreme tenderness or brittleness; and violent winds or rains, during the flowering, cause a large proportion of the flowers to become abortive. These are the only accidents to which to which it seems to be liable; in other respects it is a hardy variety, and begins to bear early; requires rather more room than the varieties of Pineau, say four feet by three feet. There is no reason to suppose that this sort is identical with the Pedro Ximenes, which is the variety chiefly cultivated at Xeres for the finest descriptions of sherry.

No. 27 – Scyras (45/1 or No. 45 of the private collection, but it is no longer to be found in the Botanic Gardens, although its name is in the catalogue). An excellent grape, and promises to be at least equally as valuable for red wine as the Verdeilho is for white. This is the sort said to be chiefly cultivated on the celebrated Hill of the Hermitage. It is a very hardy plant, produces well, and seems to be liable to no accident or disease; may be planted at same distance, or, as it grows with more vigour, at a greater distance than the Verdeilho.

No. 28 – Malbec. Black grape, from the Médoc. (This, and the following three sorts, were sent to the colony from one of the best vineyards near Bordeaux, by Mr. Barton, of the house of Barton and Guestier, under the care of Monsr. D. N. Joubert, of the firm of Joubert and Murphy, and they promise to become great acquisitions.) Bunches small, berries rather large, thinly set, a very sweet, richly flavoured grape; said to be used to impart richness to the claret wines.

No. 29 – Cabernet Sauvigon. Black, larger bunches, smaller berries, very austere, imparting a deep color and delicate perfume to the wine, produces more abundantly, and is of more vigorous-growth. This sort is said to compose the majority of the plants in the vineyards of first reputation near Bordeaux.

No. 30 - Verdot. Black, has borne for the first time this year: its quality, therefore, cannot he well described. The foregoing three, planted together, in certain proportions, of which the Cabernet forms the largest, compose, it is said, the vineyards of first character in the Medoc.

No. 31 - Sauvignon Blanc. White grape, of great reputation in the vineyards near Bordeaux, in which are made the wines of Barsac, Sauterne, &c. Hardy vigorous plant, fruit oval, rather deficient in juice; only commenced bearing in 1841, but appears to produce moderately well.

No. 32 - Black Grape (62/2, or No. 62 of the Luxemburg collection, misnamed Bon Blanc in the catalogue). A vine of rather dwarfish habit, but very productive, bunches large, berries of medium size, closely set, makes a good red wine of tolerably good color; should be planted as closely as the varieties of Pineau.

The above 17 sorts, although we possess several others which may prove highly valuable, comprise all that I can at present class with the 2nd Division, and although generally speaking, they ripen later than those I have classed with the first, there are amongst them varieties which richly merit trial in the more elevated districts of the colony, particularly if a situation is chosen for them combining the advantages of a stony soil, with a favorable aspect and sheltered site, such for instance, as might be selected in the vicinity of the Towrang Stockade. I would name more particularly Nos. 16, 19, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, and 30.

The 5 varieties which follow, and compose the 3rd Division, might no doubt have several others appended to them, but as they usually ripen too late to be of much use for wine, (when compared with those which I have already described), in the situation in which I have cultivated them, I have paid little attention to them. None of these attain maturity with me until after the end of March, although in a more favourable site, they might, in the same neighbourhood, become ripe two or three weeks earlier. On the hunter, they would prove to be still earlier, and of more value.

No. 33 — Carignan (1/1, or No. 1 of Mr. Busby’s private collection). Black grape, bearing occasionally in great abundance, and sometimes comparatively little, appears to be hardy, and subject to no disease; ripens too late with me to estimate its qualities as a wine grape.

No. 34 - Grenaches (2/1, or No. 2 of the private collection). Black grape, not so productive as the former, but equally uncertain, ripens equally late.

No. 35 - Mataro (3/l, or No. 3 of the private collection). Black grape, produces much more abundantly, and with more certainty, than the preceding grapes, not so sweet, but ripens earlier.

The foregoing three, with sometimes the addition of No. 36, are described by Mr. Busby, in his journal, and by French authors, as the sorts used in making the wine of Roussillon; the whole being usually planted together. Some of the wine made from them, on decomposing schistus, is said to have been kept more than 150 years, and to have continued to improve to the last.

No. 36 - Mourastel. Black grape, much resembling the last, but although sweeter, scarcely so productive.

No. 37 - Blanquette (6/1, or No. 6 of the private collection). Avery productive white grape, said to be used to impart strength to the white wines of Languedoc, ripens later than any other sort I have named; a very hardy plant.

Letter IV – Diseases of the Vine

There is only one disease, properly so called, to which the Vine is occasionally subjected in New South Wales. I have mentioned it in the preceding paper as being known by the name of “the blight.” lt. caused several small vineyards to be abandoned, which in the earlier years of the colony were planted by the officers and a few other individuals. These vineyards are said to have prospered generally until their third or fourth year, when the malady made its appearance in the form of dark brown spots or blotches upon the young shoots, leaves, and bunches of fruit, and became so destructive, that the culture of the vine was discontinued as hopeless.

I have seen the disease in Europe, where it was pointed out by a very skillful practical cultivator, an individual who had succeeded in establishing a vineyard on a considerable scale in the United States of America. He stated that he had been baffled there during several years by the same malady, and succeeded in his object, at length, only by selecting two sorts (out of thirty-five he had in cultivation) which were not subject to the disease. These sorts, according to his description, appear to have been the Verdeilho, and the Small Black Cluster, (No. 6). The same individual had taken much pains to ascertain the cause of the former failures to produce wine in America, and satisfied himself that, in various instances, the disease in question had attacked the vines to such a degree, that they became useless as fruit bearing plants. He said, that in his native country it was supposed to make its appearance only on lands which had recently been cleared from wood, but that in America, where it was so much more destructive, and where no plantation of vines, that he had heard of, appeared to have escaped it, some of them had, doubtless, been made upon land which had not recently been wooded.

In New South Wales, vines, upon old and upon newly cleared lands appear to be equally subject to the malady. At first it was attributed to hot winds, which, after all, had perhaps never blown. Subsequently a very clever practical cultivator was equally positive that it was caused by the cold southerly winds, which sometimes suddenly succeed a warm day. Others have imagined that the peculiar appearances occasioned by the disease might be accounted for by the supposition that the drops of dew or rain deposited upon the plant, acted during bright sunshine, as so many lenses, and thus scorched the parts within their focus! forgetting, rather singularly it must be confessed, that the drops of moisture themselves must form a tolerably safe preventative to any injury from burning which their lens-like form might otherwise, perhaps, occasion.

Attentive observation, during a number of years, upon the appearances of this disease, and the peculiar circumstances under which it makes its appearance, have satisfied me that it can properly be attributed to none of the above causes. I believe it to be the effect of a minute parasitical fungus, somewhat analogous in its habits to the one commonly known by the name of “the rust” or “mildew” in wheat, and that if any person possessing sufficient botanical knowledge of the history and general appearance’s of this tribe of plants, will take the trouble to examine carefully through a good microscope the portions oft vine affected by the disease, particularly when it is in an incipient state, he may be enabled to give as distinct and satisfactory an account of its progress as other naturalists have given of the mildew in wheat. Like the latter, it usually makes its first appearance in calm warm weather, showing itself in small detached portions usually nearer the ground, and frequently where it is completely sheltered from sun and wind. If these diseased portions be not carefully removed, it is soon found to have spread considerably. I have no doubt that it increases by infection, or rather by frequent renewals from seed, for it is well known that in weather favorable for their re-production, generations of some of these plants, do not last more than a few days. By carefully removing the infected portions as they make their appearance, it has been ascertained, in most cases, that the disease may be so much checked as to do very little injury. Out of 36 varieties described in the preceding paper, only the 4 sorts of Muscat appear to be at all liable to it; and of these, the black and the white appear to suffer least. Several of the fine table grapes are greatly injured by it, in close confined situations, and in particular seasons.*

[*See the note on Phylleriaceae at the end of this Letter. in the original publication this was footnoted here.]

The only enemies to the vine, which I have hitherto had an opportunity of noticing, are the following.

1st. The larva or grub of a small insect which is commonly bred in the sap wood of the acacias (wattles), casuarinas (swamp and forest oak), and some other soft woods. If sampling stakes or supports of these woods are introduced amongst the vines, the grubs frequently pass from them into the stocks of the vines, boring their way into the heart or pith, on which they continue to live until they assume their perfect form. Vines, and other plants of similar habit, are sometimes nearly destroyed by this insect; and in every case I have met with, supports, either of the common wattle or swamp oak, have been attached to the plant. In a vineyard, no stakes but those split from hardwood should be used, but the Indian or Spanish reed, (generally, though erroneously, called the bamboo,) sometimes, especially when the vine shoots luxuriantly, proves extremely useful, to attach as a light rail from stake to stake.

2ndly. The black and yellow larva, or caterpillar of a moth, (Agarista Glycine,) black spotted with Orange. It feeds upon the tender leaves and branches of ?owers and young fruit, and if neglected will sometimes do much damage. This insect appears to be produced far more abundantly in gardens and in vineyards where trellises are used, than where the vines are supported by stakes, and I have been assured by an intelligent cultivator, that a vineyard, in which no supports whatever are used, is nearly, if not altogether, free from them. The inference is, that the moth lays its eggs in the autumn, and in the early spring, before the vine comes into leaf; that where no supports are used, the greater part of the wood being removed at the pruning, the eggs are carried out of the vineyard with it, but that stakes, and more particularly trellises, with the old wood of the vine which usually remains attached to the latter, form a secure nidus for them.

When the caterpillars do make their appearance they should be assiduously sought for early in the morning and late in the evening, and on dark cool days. During bright warm sunshine they do not feed, and, remaining concealed under the shelter of a leaf, are not so easily detected.

3dly. Birds of various kinds which prey upon the fruit, more particularly a small species (Jostterops Dorsalis, [changed to Zosterops in Errata]) which, from a white circle round the eye, is generally known in the colony by the name of the “Silver Eye.” In some situations where gardens are numerous, and brushes, or other cover near at hand, these destructive little pests would seem almost to forbid the cultivation of the vine; for they destroy twenty times as much as they consume. They select the finest and ripest berries upon a bunch, and having pierced them with their bills, suck out a little of the richest juice, and then attack another bunch. Of course, the greater part of the berries so injured either shrivel up, or, what is worse, if rain comes on, rot, and the rottenness is usually communicated to the rest of the bunch. The larger birds, of which many will feed upon grapes, are not nearly so formidable, they are easily seen and shot or scared away. But the “Silver Eyes” steal unperceived amongst the vines, and in a short time, do an incredible amount of damage. The only methods I have found effective in restraining, and, I may almost add, in altogether preventing their ravages, are, to pursue and shoot them, if possible, at all seasons of the year, and to seek out their nests and destroy them. By keeping up this system at all times, particularly when there is no fruit to tempt them, it is remarkable what an impression may at length be made upon these little marauders. Although for a time their numbers may not appear to diminish, still, if the gun be constantly used, they become so thinned, and the remnant so scared, that in the fruit season they may be frequently seen passing over a well kept garden or vineyard without venturing to alight within its precincts. I have found the children of the Aborigines very serviceable in this Chasse aux petite oiseaux; and as a stimulus, it is usual to give them some trifling sum per dozen for all the birds they produce.

4thly. The night feeding animals (opossums, squirrels, and native cats): these occasionally make an inroad into a vineyard, and devour the fruit; but they are easily traced to their haunts by the Aborigines, besides they will not approach watchful dogs, and may, by their means, be kept away.

I have said nothing of marauders of the human species, because I presume, no one possessing a vineyard will omit the protection of a formidable hedge fence, as well as a watchman with a gun, assisted by faithful dogs, when the grapes are ripe. The bloodhounds, imported from Cuba, are found to be excellent for the purpose of guarding vineyards. Their vigilance and acute sense of smell, added to their other formidable qualities, are sufficient to deter the most adventurous fruit thieves from venturing within the precincts of the enclosure they are placed to guard.


*Phyllericaceae is the name given by Fries to a tribe of minute Fungi, which are parasitical on the living leaves of various plants. They are all distinguished by presenting woolly fibres with almost invisible sporidia contained in them. The type of the tribe may be considered to be Persoon’s genus Erineum.

The Phyllerium vitis of Fries, is parasitical on vine leaves. It appears on both sides of the leaf in superficial lax spots, which at first are dark brown or black, and then of a rather lighter color. Finally, the flocciform peridia appear eating away, as it were, the substance of the leaf, in the middle of the dark spots. These peridia are white subdiaphanous tortuous filaments, somewhat resembling very fine fibres of wool or cotton. They are said to contain the sporules, which are so minute and difficult to be seen as by some mycologists to have been considered wanting. The difficulty of detecting the sporules has induced Decandolle and other Botanists to express doubts whether this Phyllerium ought to be considered a fungus, or whether it may not be a peculiar disease or cancer of the vine. Kunze who wrote a monograph on the species of Erineum, of which Phyllerium may be deemed a subgenus, placed all the species, of which he described 45, among the Byssoidea, and made the absence of spirals to be part of their generic character! Dr. Greville has, however, repeatedly observed the spirals in Erineum aureum, a species which infests the leaves of the Poplar, and has even figured them in his beautiful work “The Scottish Cryptogamic Flora”. Since then, sporules have been detected in several other species, and from analogy we may reckon them to exist in the Phyllerium vitis, and to be enclosed in its flocciform peridia.

The proximate cause of this kind of blight does not appear to be known; but it is rather singular that it does not seem to be so prejudicial to the cultivators of the vine in Europe, as to those in this Colony.