S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Mudd, Mr Christopher (plant collection)

Born: 1852, Cleveland District, Yorkshire, United Kingdom.
Died: 2 May 1920, St Kilda, Victoria, Australia.

Christopher Mudd, horticulturalist and traveller, worked in the University of Cambridge Museum for two years before being sent out to Queensland and New South Wales, Australia, to collect specimens for its collections. After his return he became assistant curator of the university's botanic garden. During 1875-1876 he accompanied the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) on a visit to India and Ceylon as the latter's official botanist. His extensive botanical collection, including many timber specimens, was presented to the herbarium at Kew Gardens. He then joined a firm of nurserymen of Chelsea, Messrs Veitch & Sons, who sent him to South Africa to collect seeds and bulbs. A short account of his visit entitled "A pedestrian trip across South Africa" was published in the Gardeners' Chronicle the next year.

Arriving in Delagoa Bay (now Baia de Maputo) he set out on foot for the Transvaal on 8 October 1877. Following the Komati River through the Lebombo Mountains he travelled via Pretorius Kop to the Mac-Mac goldfields, near Graskop, where he collected 180 specimens of ferns. Continuing on via Pilgrims Rest, Lydenburg and Middelburg he reached Pretoria, from where he appears to have travelled to Durban and back. Proceeding to Potchefstroom he travelled across the Vaal River to Kimberley, describing the journey as monotonous and finding nothing worth collecting. From Kimberley he eventually reached the Buffalo River, from where he travelled to Cape Town by train.

Mudd's employers were not satisfied with the results of his journey, as he sent back little of horticultural value. However, following the early collecting trips to the Transvaal of Carl Zeyher* and Joseph Burke* around 1840, no plant collections appear to have been made in the territory until Dr W.G. Atherstone*, John H. McLea* and Mudd appeared on the scene in the eighteen-seventies. Even though his collection was not extensive it has some historical significance.

In 1879 Mudd went to the Canterbury District of New Zealand, where he planted trees under contract for four years. His "Notes on New Zealand" were published in the Gardeners Chronicle in 1884. He then proceeded to Australia, worked as a forester to the Ballarat Water Commission, and finally settled in Victoria for the rest of his life. A book of fiction by him, Ocean Jack and other stories of Austral bush and plain, was published in Melbourne around 1913. He was married to Alice Elizabeth, born Barton, with whom he had a daughter.

Mudd was a Fellow of both the Linnean Society (1889) and the Royal Geographical Society. He has been described as a complex and fascinating person who could keep an audience spell-bound, but who was a poor writer. The species Ilysanthes muddii, Argyrolobium muddii and Streptocarpus muddii were named after him. His specimens are housed in the herbaria at Kew Gardens and the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh.

List of sources:
Burtt-Davy, J. & Leendertz, R. First annotated catalogue of the vascular plants of the Transvaal and Swaziland: Introduction. Report of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science, 1908, pp. 230-236.

Christopher Mudd. My Heritage Family Trees. Retrieved from https://www.myheritage.com/names/christopher_mudd on 2018-11-28.

Gunn, M. & Codd, L.E. Botanical exploration of southern Africa. Cape Town: Balkema, 1981.

National Union Catalogue, pre-1956 imprints. London: Mansell, 1968-1980.

Royal Society of London. Catalogue of scientific papers [1800-1900]. London: Royal Society, 1867-1925.

Compiled by: C. Plug