Drummond, James (1784-1863)
Drummond, Thomas (1780-1835) (brother)
Hooker, William Jackson (1785-1865)
Lindley, John (1799-1865) (specimens to)
Mangles, G. (fl. 1829-1836) (co-collector)
Mangles, James (1786-1867) (specimens to)
Maxwell, George (1804-1880) (co-collector)
Drummond and family arrived in the Swan River Colony, Western Australia, in June 1829. He was appointed Honorary Government Naturalist and set up a botanic garden on Garden Island, where a temporary settlement was established. In November 1829 he began to set up a nursery on 100 acres of land granted to him at Guildford, where the Helena and Swan Rivers meet. However, this was not a successful venture and he instead took lands in the Helena Valley. In July 1831 he was appointed superintendent of a garden and nursery next to the colony’s Government House, but his salary was soon withdrawn by the Colonial Office, much to Drummond's chagrin and also displeasing Captain Stirling. Drummond even travelled to England in 1834 (in vain), to try and overturn the decision. He thence moved his land grant in Helena Valley, setting up a nursery and vineyard there, though it was not long before he exchanged this for land in the Avon Valley in 1836. At this time he also embarked on his career as a botanical collector, which would see him sell many thousands of seeds and dried specimens to herbaria in Europe, while his sons ran a farm at Toodyay, which they named Hawthornden after Drummond's home in Scotland.
Drummond's early collecting career was facilitated by the Irish lawyer George Fletcher Moore, who was secretary of the newly formed Agricultural Society of Western Australia. Moore had received requests for Australian plants and seeds from Captain James Mangles, cousin of Captain Stirling's wife and a keen horticulturalist, who had visited the Swan River colony. After sending an initial consignment, bought from Drummond, Moore put the two in touch and Drummond was thus engaged to supply more material for introduction. In fact, the first despatch had been unsuccessful, the seeds eaten by insects and the live plants dead before their arrival. Nevertheless, Mangles was pleased with his next shipment in 1837, and passed on items to John Lindley of the Horticultural Society, who further distributed the specimens to other botanists and wrote an account of the plants of the Swan River colony, based largely on Drummond's collections and type specimens.
His reputation as a botanical collector thus initiated, Drummond's next patron was William Hooker, who wrote to him in 1839 requesting a full collection of West Australian specimens, much to Drummond's delight. (Mangles, meanwhile, preferred to receive plants from the settler Georgiana Molloy, who was not as preoccupied with payment as Drummond.) He also asked Drummond to pen written botanical accounts for the Journal of Botany, which Hooker soon received in abundance, detailed and indicative of Drummond's great knowledge. In that year, Drummond also ventured farther afield from the settled areas of the Swan River colony than he had thus far worked in, entering country some 140km north-east of Fremantle along the Toodyay Road and Salt River. He visited Rottnest Island with John Gilbert and Ludwig Preiss and in 1840 travelled from Perth to King George Sound with the latter. Preiss and Drummond, though both zealous field workers, had very different attitudes, with Preiss making meticulous labels and less interested in exploring new country. Drummond, meanwhile, was a novelty seeker, both in terms of new species and uncharted territory, which he enthusiastically conquered on horseback.
In 1841 Drummond came upon the Victoria Plains with Captain John Scully, Samuel Pole Phillips and his son, Johnston, and stayed with fellow collector Georgiana Molloy in the Vasse River district, where he was to be found again in 1842 and 1843. He explored the Moore River, Murray River, Mount William and the Wongan Hills at this time. With his son Johnston he collected for three months in 1843 in the Stirling range and Albany, and later in the decade travelled with George Maxwell to Cape Riche and east beyond Salt River. Tracing his activity in detail is difficult, however, because his enormous collections were not properly labelled, and his erratic numbering does not correspond well with his notes on specimens. Of Drummond's collecting companions, his youngest son, Johnston, was the most frequent. Tragically, though, the promising young naturalist, who also collected birds for John Gould, was killed in July 1845 at the Moore River. His grief-stricken father did not collect again for more than a year, partly because of lack of funds, for the family farm had gone bust in 1844.
In 1846-1847, funded by the British government, Drummond travelled south to the Porongorup and Stirling Ranges with George Maxwell, and in 1850 he embarked on his most ambitious journey to date, joining a surveying expedition to Champion Bay. Following the Avon as far as the River Moore he stayed a while at Dandaragan before heading east to the Hill River, Mount Lesuer and then all the way up to the Murchison River at the Geraldine Mines. Returning from the dangerous 18-month journey, having been harassed by natives as well as tested by the terrain, Drummond's last consignment was sent to England in 1852, rich in novelties though not the largest of his collections. In 1855 he turned down the invitation to join A.C. Gregory's expedition to northern Australia, deciding himself too old (he was also wary of the Aboriginal people in that part of the land). Retiring, he died at Hawthornden in 1863.
Although his collections were sometimes not received in the best state and lacked location details and descriptions of habit, botany's debt to Drummond's industrious work is recognised in some 60 plant species named after him. His specimens formed the basis of Lindley's 1839 publication, Sketch of the Vegetation of the Swan River Colony, in which many new species were described, as well as being frequently referred to by George Bentham in Flora Australiensis. James Drummond Jr. gave his father's collections to Ferdinand von Mueller in Melbourne, where they formed a substantial part of the State Herbarium of Victoria. Some of his types, meanwhile, went to the Cambridge Botanical Museum following Lindley's death in 1865. Certainly the most important pioneering botanical explorer of Western Australia, Drummond is also commemorated by Mount Drummond, South Australia.
L. Diels (translated by D.J. Carr), in D.J. Carr and S.G.M. Carr (eds), 1981, People and Plants in Australia: 53-59
R. Erickson, 1969, The Drummonds of Hawthornden
E.C. Nelson, 1990, "James and Thomas Drummond: their Scottish origins and curatorships in Irish botanic gardens (ca. 1808-ca. 1831)", "Archives of Natural History", 17(1): 49-65
J.B. Webb, 2003, The Botanical Endeavour: Journey Towards a Flora of Australia: 136-152.
We're sorry. You don't appear to have permission to access the item.
Full access to these resources typically requires affiliation with a partnering organization. (For example, researchers are often granted access through their affiliation with a university library.)
If you have an institutional affiliation that provides you access, try logging in via your institution
Have access with an individual account? Login here
Want unrestricted access?
- Enjoy unrestricted access to all content and features, including: PDF viewer and download.
- Access is allocated within one business day of purchase and lasts one year.
- Please note that this is a trial program and may end.
If you would like to learn more about access options or believe you received this message in error, please contact us.