GUNN (Genera –Gunniopsis, Gunnia; Species-Gunnii)
Ronald Campbell Gunn (1808-1881) was a South African-born Australian botanist, public administrator and politician.
He arrived in Hobart in 1830 and spent most of his life in Tasmania. He was the superintendent of convicts in Hobart, but his first love was botany and by taking extensive field excursions into all parts of Tasmania, he became the most prodigious collector of Tasmanian plants, many specimens of which he forwarded to Sir William Hooker (1785-1865), the first director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in London. Hooker’s son and successor at Kew, Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker (1817-1911), visited Tasmania aboard HMS Erebus, as part of the Ross expedition (1939-1843), and dedicated his Flora Tasmaniae (2 Vols 1855:1860) to Ronald Gunn and another botanist, William Archer (1820-1874).
Gunn became the private secretary to the Tasmanian governor, Sir John Franklin, and later acted as the administrator of his wealthy estates. Gunn went on to serve in the Tasmanian Lower and Upper houses of parliament (1855-1860).
At one stage over 50 Tasmanian plants bore the name of Gunn. Those that remain include the Australian deciduous Beech, Nothofagus gunnii,Persoonia gunnii, a small spiny heath shrub with white flowers, prolific in the Lake St Clair- Cradle Mountain region, Cider Gum,Eucalyptus gunnii, a medium tree with a lignotuber, glaucous leaves and white flowers, the sap of which was tapped and tasted like foamy cider.
Gunn visited Port Phillip District and Western Port in 1837 in an administrative capacity to review convict facilities but he took time out to collect several suites of local Victorian plants. In 1842 Gunn wrote Observations on the Flora of Geelong and began a seven-year editorship of the Tasmanian Journal of Natural Science, in which many of his articles appeared, including works on mammals, birds, reptiles and molluscs as well as plants. In 1855 Gunn dispatched a live Tasmanian Tiger, Thylacinus cynocephalus, to the London Zoo.
Two genera of plants are named in Gunn’s honour, Gunnia and Gunniopsis (like Gunnia) which consist of 14 Australian species of fleshy succulents called ‘fig- marigold’ or ‘pigface’.
Our local plants that honour Gunn are:
Ploughshare or Dog’s Tooth Wattle, Acacia gunnii, (* p. 44 of reference for a full description), rare in our area, with distinctive sharp-pointed leaves and unique whitish-cream flowers with golden stamens.
Shrubby Spurge, Phyllanthus gunnii, (*p. 62) an upright small shrub of the dunes with oval leaves and distinctive male and female flowers on separate plants.
Golden-bush pea, Pulenaea gunnii, (*p. 114) a beautiful low shrub with leaves and stems covered in silky hairs and offering a massed display of bright ‘egg and bacon’ flowers in spring.
* Reference: M MacDonald (Ed.) 2009: Flowers of Anglesea and Aireys Inlet, Angair