Lucy May Cranwell Smith MA DSc DSc(Hon) FLS FRSNZ


Lucy Cranwell


Dr Lucy May Cranwell Smith (née Cranwell) was born on 7 August 1907 in Auckland and grew up in West Auckland at Henderson. Lucy died at Tucson, Arizona, U.S.A. on 8 June 2000. She was with Dr Lucy B. Moore (1906 – 1987), a pioneer in the modern era of New Zealand botany. They shared some similarities in their formative years and early education and both enjoyed the friendship and advice of Dr Leonard Cockayne (1855 – 1934) who became their mentor, offering encouragement and criticism together with access to his large body of published work. It was Cockayne who first referred to the two friends as "the two Lucies". Lucy Cranwell began her career at the Auckland War Memorial Museum in 1929 and moved permanently to the U.S.A. in 1944 as a war bride and lived in Tucson, Arizona in her later years.

Family background and forbears

Lucy Cranwell came from a family devoted to horticulture. Lucy’s father, Benjamin Franklin Cranwell (1872 – 1928), trained at Hay’s Nursery in Remuera with Hayward Wright (later of Kiwifruit fame), but with young grafted trees selling at only 18 pence each he soon joined the N.Z. Loan and Mercantile Co. in the city to head their farm machinery section. However, he kept an ever-growing orchard in which his children learned to pick and pack fruit for sale. It was in this horticultural environment that Lucy grew up.

Benjamin’s own father, Robert, had been brought up in Lincolnshire, England, where members of his family are said to have been skilled carvers for Lincoln Cathedral. Robert left for London, setting up a furniture business there and marrying Eliza Hiscock, who had been born "within the sound of Bow Bells". In 1862, Robert and Eliza embarked with the "Albertlanders" for New Zealand in the, which carried the banner of the City of Nottingham. Lucy relates (15) that after all these years, this silken emblem has recently come to rest in the Albertlanders’ Museum at Wellsford, Northland. Hard years followed. The Cranwells moved to Auckland where Robert prospered in the furniture firm of Garlick and Cranwell, reported by Dick Scott (25, p.180) to be one of the most successful in the Colony, as it was then.

Bad times in the 1880s led Robert to plan Pomaria, a large orchard development north of the village of Henderson and east of the Great North Road. With Thomas Bell and G. Harden as partners (they too were Albertlanders), 900 acres of scrub-covered old kauri country (the soil full of kauri gum) were purchased and divided into 10-acre to 25-acre lots, the Cranwell family’s sections being strung along the north side of Henderson Creek. Around 1900, Ben Cranwell sold his 25 acres in favour of about 40 acres in the heart of the village; most of the land had been Thomas Henderson’s farm ("The Delta"); it lay between the two streams (Canty’s Creek and the Opunuku) and was bounded by the main road, across which Ben and his cousin Harry Worrall for a time (around 1908) owned the historic Falls Hotel (now in a place of honour in Falls Park). With the eventual success of Pomaria, Ben’s parents retired to a cliff-top in Parnell, Auckland, overlooking the harbour.

Equal interest in plants marked Lucy’s maternal Cornish grandparents, of farming stock from the southern coast of Cornwall. They left for New Zealand in 1861 in search of freedom, as did the Cranwells. Edward Vellenoweth was a well-known horticulturist and his wife Anna Dash is still famed for her fight to save both Dingle Dell and The Green (now Vellenoweth Green) in St Heliers, Auckland from land developers. After eight years, Anna finally alone in the fight, it seemed that both areas were now legally protected. The Green then reached to the shore and covered more than 10 acres. Sports clubs took over four acres and finally gained legal status in 1995 through an Act of Parliament.

Lucy Moore wrote of Lucy Cranwell’s Cornish heritage (19),

"Those of you who knew LMC will remember her as rather unpredictable, perhaps because her mother was Cornish."

In reference to this view, Lucy (15) responded as follows,

"This is a matter of opinion, of course. My mother, Marian Cranwell, was born in Auckland. She was outspoken and spirited, with artistic talent submerged in her life on the farm. She had been one of the first students enrolled at the Elam School of Art after her Primary schooling at Tamaki West School, which Dr John E. Elam had visited to see her drawings. In Henderson she kept a rose garden; she attended, when possible, meetings of the National Council of Women in Auckland and she encouraged me to write and sketch from my earliest days. From Grammar on I often read notes and articles to her before submitting them, and in this way her comments established a sense of style in me. I barely knew her mother so missed hearing her Cornish voice and an indoctrination that might have made me an early defender of The Green before the squatters took root through lack of supervision by an early governing body".


School and University education

Lucy wrote (15),

"All five of our family went to Henderson School. The Headmaster, J. L. Innes, was a good teacher who taught us American plantation songs in one mood but wielded a bitter strap in another. There was no preparation for further schooling so I entered Epsom Girls’ Grammar School in Auckland without having heard of geometry or algebra, but did know about the plants and some old English seasonal games dear to Mr Innes, liveliest of all being ‘Here we come gathering nuts in May on a cold and frosty morning’. He also held Arbor Day plantings."

Lucy Cranwell and Lucy Moore both attended Epsom Girls’ Grammar School. Of these early days Lucy Moore (19) records,

"…in the early twenties we knew Lucy Cranwell as a good all-rounder, a champion swimmer who made history also by driving a cricket ball through the window of a form room that was well outside the boundary. She won prizes for essays and for drawing but not in botany though her notebook was commended".

She represented the school at cricket and will never forget (15) the odour of horses from a milk factory on one side of the field and a jagged lava pit on the other, and also scouting for a ball in a bushy gully during a match against Auckland Girls’ Grammar School.

Lucy Cranwell and Lucy Moore commenced studies at Auckland University College in 1925 (19). At University, Lucy Cranwell’s BA degree was considered "somewhat odd" (19), and was based on three years each for English and botany together with courses in French and economics – all her own choice as there was no counselling in those days. She also audited some lectures in journalism and geology, all to her advantage, though she commented (15) that the cynical view of the historian Sinclair (26) on most of these departments at this time should not be missed. Together with C. B. Radcliffe in 1929, Lucy Cranwell and Lucy Moore were jointly awarded the £120 Duffus Lubecki Scholarship. Lucy served on the Students’ Association Executive from 1926 to 1928 and won a Hockey Blue. Those were happy days until her father’s health broke in 1927; he died in early February, before she graduated.

In her lecture, Lucy Moore (19) quoted from one of Lucy Cranwell’s letters about her University days in Auckland,

"I’ve forgotten none of the pleasures of those days. Professor Egerton [C. W. Egerton, 1862 – 1939] was the benign head of a small friendly English Department. I remember many students who were important at that time with warmth, and gratitude for the free, innocent, penniless, hockey-playing days we shared. I came callow from Henderson, a gentle but flavourful village in the twenties, travelling on the slow Kaipara and suburban trains".

Lucy Cranwell (15) has added,

"There was time to talk with other students on the trains, or try to finish home work. On entering University in 1925, I had big ideas; I might be a forester or a journalist! W. R. McGregor [1894 – 1977] and Alan Mulgan [1881 – 1962] punctured those balloons. No room for women in those fields! Mr Mulgan did, however, suggest that one might specialise in favourite subjects that might have popular appeal. Over the years Mr Mulgan gave me a few books to review for the newspaper; I remember especially one about Edward Wilson of Antarctic fame. Other lecturers I remember well are the scholarly Philip ("Pip") S. Ardern and T. L. Lancaster [1888 – 1945] who shared so generously his knowledge of the native flora, and Professor J. A. Bartrum [1885 – 1949] whose geology field camps were a delight. The University Field Club (now defunct, alas) introduced me to tramping in many areas, most important being the camp on Ruapehu in 1928 before the Chateau was built".

Lucy’s vigour as a member of this club is alluded to in Sinclair’s "A History of the University of Auckland 1883 – 1983" (26, p.144), in which A. B. Thompson, then lecturer in Education, notes that Zoe Olive Lloyd (herself a prodigious tramper),

"…on Field Club excursions could outwalk anyone except Lucy Cranwell…".

Lucy demurs (15) stating that,

"Olive and I always walked abreast where the track was wide enough…We were great talkers."

Professor Arnold Wall (1869 – 1966) commemorates the tramping prowess of Lucy Cranwell and Lucy Moore in his poem "Tramping girls of Auckland" (31), written after they crossed the Waitakeres from the Anawhata Hut (which played an important part in Lucy’s University days) to the Swanson train with him in pouring rain.

Lucy explained about the "Varsity" hut at Anawhata (15),

"Purchase of some 17 acres of farmer H. A. Mobb’s steepest land was made soon after a number of Field Club members had enjoyed a camp on O’Neill’s Point, Te Henga, in 1925. The first owners, Muriel Schmidt (later Mrs W. E. LaRoche), myself, J. C. "Jack" Andrew, Percy R. Parr and Serjeant F. Meiklejohn together with various other students or graduates, transported the rimu lumber over the headland from the road and helped with the building, Norman (later Sir Norman) Alexander being a prime planner and builder. Lindsay H. ("Bob") Briggs [1905 – 1975] was one of the most active owners in the hut’s later history. Love of wildlife was the tie that bound us. A fire in 1956, set by a fisherman trying to expose the track to Fisherman’s Rock, destroyed most of the vegetation here and around White’s Beach, but regeneration has been remarkable, the spread of tall Kawerau kowhai (Sophora microphylla var.) H. H. Allan being noteworthy and worthy of study as this headland is the type locality for the variety." The property was gifted to the University of Auckland in 1966. Photographs of the Anawhata hut were published in Cameron’s obituary to Lucy (5) who also gives an account of the significance of the hut. Sadly, at Easter 1998 the cosy hut was destroyed seemingly by an arsonist.

Link with Dr Leonard Cockayne

A most important factor in the formative years of Lucy Cranwell and Lucy Moore in botany was their friendship with Dr Leonard Cockayne, New Zealand’s most eminent botanist and a leader in New Zealand science from the early 1900s until his death in 1934. Lucy Cranwell (12) noted in a letter that she first met Dr Cockayne at his home in Ngaio in 1928 after a visit to Nelson where she took the advice of F. G. Gibbs (1866 – 1953), affectionately known as "Sos", to spend a weekend on Dun Mountain, which has a remarkable serpentine belt flora. One night there with wekas was quite an experience…Later Mr Gibbs helped with identifications but advised her to take her collections to his friend Dr Cockayne. She did this, describing the meeting as follows (12),

"Dr Cockayne was expansive and most welcoming. We became firm friends, as did Lucy Moore when she went later with me to visit Dr Cockayne and his wife".

In 1929 Lucy graduated MA with Second Class Honours in botany from Auckland, her thesis dealing with epiphytes of the Waitakere Ranges. Lucy records (15) that within a few weeks of graduation she was asked by the young and vigorous Director of the Auckland Institute and Museum, Dr (later Sir) Gilbert Archey (1890 – 1974) to join his scientific staff as botanist. The other members of the staff were R.A. "Bob" Falla (1901-1979) ornithologist and A. W. Baden Powell (1901 – 1987), conchologist with Cyril Firth engaged to set up an outstanding display of New Zealand geology. Three other huge halls were to be filled with faunal and botanical displays on a minimal budget for the opening of the new War Memorial Museum in the Auckland Domain on 29 November 1929. Lucy began work on 29 April 1929 with the added task of arranging the long-stored herbarium in the small sunless room T. F. Cheeseman (1846-1923) had modestly allotted for it. A row of display cases yawned empty in the Cheeseman Hall outside this room.

Lucy continues in her letter (15),

"It was to Dr Cockayne that I turned at once for help. He proved full of ideas about display for public education – and pleasure. I have still the lists of his suggestions, and he made available some of his most valued specimens illustrating growth forms in particular. Everything had to be done on a shoestring, alas, and there was no artist to help make the cases look seductive for man, woman, or child. People did seem to take notice, however. Dr Archey had stressed that we were to consider ourselves the servants of the public; we were to welcome enquiries of all kinds – I was once reproved for refusing to identify a large unpressed collection for which the collector (a botanist) had attempted no identifications on his own. In my case (being very junior) my own research was to be undertaken only in my spare time, which grew less and less".

Auckland War Memorial Museum (1929 – 1944)

Lucy’s initial tasks at the museum included setting up the botanical displays, unpacking and mounting the Cheeseman herbarium of some 10,000 specimens as well as service to the public, including specimen identification. In these early days at the museum Lucy developed an educative role encouraging the interest of children in plants.

Among the innovations introduced by Lucy at the museum were "Botany Trots" for children in particular. Lucy commented (15) that even Lord Bledisloe (1867 – 1958) and his aide joined in one of these to Rangitoto Island, a favourite study and recreation area. Lord Bledisloe also came frequently to the Museum when in residence, and he always checked the Native Plant table.

A major effort was begun in 1932 to have a spring show of native flowers, in Mr Cheeseman’s honour. This continued until 1963, supported by collections from Sir Edwin Mitchelson’s plots at Ellerslie Racecourse, by the Loder Cup Collection in the Auckland Domain and by potted shrubs and ferns from the Domain also; the large branches of kowhai were cut from Lucy’s family farm in Henderson – not from the wild. Many adults and children brought in both cut and potted material. All of this was set out against the incongruous backdrop of casts of sharks, sunfish, and so forth in the Cheeseman Hall. Cameron (5) records that the show attracted up to 8000 visitors but ended in controversy following complaints that children collecting for the show were damaging the local flora.

In all these projects and in the later founding of the Auckland Botanical Society in 1937, under the aegis of A. H. Johnstone K.C., Lucy was strongly supported by Lucy Moore, Marguerite Crookes (1898 – 1991), Eunice E. Reekie (later Mrs Norman Warneford (1909 – 1985), Betty Molesworth (later Mrs Geoffrey Allen), and Naera Mackie (later Mrs Harry Jones) of Tauranga.

Field ecology

Lucy’s work in field ecology was in a way an outcome of her interest in tramping. In this endeavour Lucy was closely associated with Lucy Moore.

Lucy Moore in her 1985 Lucy Cranwell Lecture (19) relates aspects of their joint fieldwork in ecology which was the first and most extensive activity by New Zealand women in this demanding field of science. Cameron (5) also gives a summary of this aspect of Lucy Cranwell’s research. Probably their first two-day trek was up Tamahunga (436 m), located near Leigh in Northland, close by Lucy Moore’s home town of Warkworth,

"We knew nothing about tramping or tramping clubs, and certainly had no back-packs. We carried our bed-rolls across our shoulders – very awkward for pushing through bush! After a night at the trig. we stumbled down the track carrying a shelf fungus 40 cm or more across, trying to preserve its pristine whiteness. I wonder if it is still in the Museum"(15).

Another field trip was to Mangapehi in the King Country in 1928 in search of the root parasite, known to Māori as "Pua o te Reinga" – this was to be the subject of Lucy Moore’s MSc thesis at Auckland University College. Of this trip Lucy Moore wrote (19),

"Sergeant Fearnley of the Te Kuiti police was our contact and we travelled some way under his escort on the back platform of a railway carriage, looking as disreputable as any pair of prisoners but eagerly learning from him about local plants. From Mangapehi we two went eastwards, riding on a horse-drawn trolley that ran on wooden rails, to the Ellis & Burnand mill and into untouched parts of that marvellous podocarp forest – a never-to-be-forgotten sight, the like of which will probably not be seen ever again".

With the £40 each from the Duffus Lubecki Scholarship award, the two Lucies initiated a major ecological study (19),

"…to investigate the vegetation of Te Moehau (892 m) near the tip of the Coromandel Peninsula. The unexpected assemblage of alpine plants on the summit had been recorded in 1888 by James Adams [1839-1906] – great grandfather of Nancy Adams – but there were no later reports". Exploring the area began at Easter 1929. It was then a major task to reach the mountain from Auckland. Dr Cockayne provided many suggestions and was eager for their results. In total over 5 years the young ecologists spent some 40 days in the field on Te Moehau. The difficulties and some achievements of this notable field botany are recorded by Moore (19), Cameron (5) and by Julian (16). Research relating to Te Moehau was published with Lucy Moore in the (37) and (39).

In 1930, their major expedition was to the Urewera country and the objective was Maungapohatu (1359 m). From the six hours of observation on this botanically undocumented mountain (now tapu) Lucy Cranwell and Lucy Moore wrote their first scientific paper. It was checked by Dr Cockayne and published in Volume 1 of (35) when Lucy Cranwell was 24 and Lucy Moore 25.

In 1930 Lucy received a grant of £20 from the Royal Society of New Zealand (1) for an ecological survey of marine algae and in 1933 Lucy Cranwell and Lucy Moore visited various northern islands with Katie Pickmere of Whangarei, their observations resulting in several joint papers on the Hen and Chickens and Poor Knights Islands, with special reference to finds of kauri and the distribution of in both groups and the remarkable zonation of seaweeds and barnacles on the Poor Knights (36). This latter proved to be a pioneering study of intertidal communities for New Zealand. Concerning this notable paper, Professor John Morton (b. 1923) writes in his 1994 Lucy Cranwell Lecture (21),

"W. R. B. Oliver’s fine 1923 paper [23] notwithstanding, this was to be the first real insight into the zoning of our marine shores".

Raupo taranga (Xeronema callistemon) was discussed in several papers by both women; it has since become a very popular addition to New Zealand gardens.

Lucy’s algal research in the 1930s was substantial though little appears to have been published. Dr Wendy Nelson in her 1993 Lucy Cranwell Lecture (22) makes the following comments,

"Lucy Cranwell’s contributions to our knowledge of New Zealand marine algae are not as well known as her work on the botany of the Auckland area or her contributions to palynology. She made algal collections particularly through the 1930s, primarily in the Auckland and Northland regions, including collections from the Poor Knights Islands. Good collections are central to systematic studies and Lucy Cranwell’s pioneering expeditions and collections constitute a significant legacy for phycologists. Her contribution to phycology has been recognized in the names of two species of algae endemic to northern North Island – the green alga Setchell and the red alga Chapman".

With regard to her seaweeding adventures, Lucy writes (15),

"The major part of my seaweeding was done in the Auckland Harbour as part of a Museum survey and on the West Coast between Muriwai and Piha (with happy stops to visit Frank and Gertie Bethell at Te Henga), where the bull kelp (Durvillea) – ‘a giant among algae’ – is so spectacular and its abundance in such marked contrast to the single specimen we found on the Poor Knights, in much warmer waters. I once collected seasonal brown algae below tidemarks on Motiti Island and I have also collected seaweeds sporadically on the coast of Maine, and have picked up by the lagoon on Canton Island and have scraps of Sargasso weed from the Gulf Stream".

The endurance of the two Lucies in the field is further exemplified by their double crossing of the Tararuas in January 1933 (20), with V. D. Zotov (1908 – 1977). In this and other field trips at this time the importance of the "Bartrum kidney-rotter" rucksack should be stressed, as it helped women take their place in field activities.

Lucy’s letter continues (15),

"Joint fieldwork did not end when L. B. M. moved in 1938 to the former DSIR’s Botany Division to work with Dr H. H. Allan. In 1939 there was another climb of Moehau and an approximate age of the summit bog (over 7000 years) was obtained through sampling of the peat. An extensive South Island bog expedition followed over the Christmas holidays (1939 – 40) in order to become acquainted with the areas studied in 1934 by a Swedish geologist, Dr Carl C. Caldenius. A. Lindsay Poole [b. 1908], later Director of Botany Division and Director-General of Forests, and George Rushton, later Director of Railways, were of the party, part-time, before joining the armed forces for service in Europe. Access (by Rolls Royce) to the remarkable Swampy Hill area was provided by George Simpson [1880 – 1952] and J. Scott Thomson [1882 – 1943] of Dunedin (Cockayne’s friends), the engine of the latter’s fine old car ending up soon after as a patriotic gift to the British RAF".

Lucy became more and more immersed in her bog and pollen studies while continuing her other Museum duties. In 1943 she published two booklets; one, "The Botany of Auckland" (40), was a series of articles first prepared with Professor Arnold Wall (1869 – 1966) for the newspaper in 1936 and dedicated to the memory of Mr Cheeseman. It has served as an introduction to the botany of Auckland for generations of Aucklanders, first in this form, then as revised in 1943, and finally in its present form (13), a fine, beautifully produced and much more extensive account.

It was wartime and Lucy made a significant contribution to the allied war effort by preparing a second booklet which was an 11 x 13 cm field pocket manual – "Food is Where You Find It: A Guide to Emergency Foods of the Western Pacific" (41), requested by Colonel (then Major) W. G. Farrell and Captain J. E. Green of the U.S. Second Marine Air Wing, then based on Guadalcanal, to assist downed pilots and to familiarise the forces with plant and fish foods they would meet there and in their progress through the Pacific islands. This Museum booklet had taken only three months for securing tropical botanical material, text writing (simple and direct), and illustration. Dr Powell had prepared all the zoological material but Lucy roughed out the botanical sketches needed and fine drawings of most of the items made from them by Sergeant D. A. Peters, a young marine who is now a well-known California artist. The guide became official issue for American and British units as far north as the Burma-India theatre, 5000 being printed at first (2) in Auckland. The First Impression appeared in August 1943. Five facsimile impressions have followed: Second (October 1943), Third (December 1943), Fourth (March 1944), Fifth (August 1992), and Sixth (1993 – marking the 50th anniversary reunion of the U.S. Marines on Guadalcanal). There follows below an excerpt of a letter from John Reid, then First Secretary of the New Zealand Legation, Washington, D. C. to Lucy in 1945,

"I suppose you have been very satisfied with the extensive use that has been made by the American and British Armies of this booklet; possibly you were not aware of the fact that about two months ago the British Army Staff here pointed out that there was nothing comparable available and asked permission to reprint 5000 copies for their use. We cabled New Zealand and received permission, just from whom I do not know [in fact, permission was given by Dr Gilbert Archey at Auckland Museum]. However, the British have reprinted the booklet and it is now in use".

Lucy remarked (15),

"Some changes have occurred in plant names but the Latin names meant little to the young combatants. What would they have cared if pia, poisonous but edible after long cooking, had changed its old (generic) Latin name of?".

Lucy’s participation in tramping and field ecology, especially on Te Moehau, helped her to emphasise in her articles the need for conservation. She was an early observer of the threat presented to plant life by Australian possums and wallabies, the latter being naturalised very early on Rangitoto Island (40) and Kawau. This danger was not generally recognised at the time. Dr Cockayne, for example, failed to understand the full threat of the possum (29,30). Lucy had informed him of the damage done to orchards around Auckland; he was sympathetic, but maintained that the red deer posed a greater national menace and should be controlled first. Even when significant damage to coastal trees followed, the public was not roused. Her letter (14) indicated the frustration she felt, long before the possum had taken over so much of the country,

"…when the Rose family reported severe damage to pohutukawa foliage around Anawhata and Piha I could find nobody interested. Jim Rose was a keen conservationist, an alpinist, and at one time President of the Auckland Institute and Museum – and father-in-law of Sir Edmund Hillary".

Members of the Museum staff were always encouraged by Dr Archey in their work to protect wild nature: he believed strongly in securing public participation (especially by children) in many phases of Museum work. It was for Lucy’s share in developing this role for the Museum that she won the Loder Cup on behalf of the Museum in 1937. Part of her appeal to the public, young and old, was the writing of short articles about native plants for the newspaper, beginning in 1933. These brought readers to the Native Wildflower Circle in particular, and encouraged children to grow the seeds it distributed. Lucy Moore comments as follows on these newspaper articles (19),

"These Star articles went on till 1937, one a week, some of them written in the train ready for the morning deadline. All were illustrated, mostly with line drawings – many Lucy’s own quick lively sketches, but included also were a series of fine [India ink] studies by the artist Eunice Reekie, signed E. E. R. [she too was a pupil at Epsom Girls’ Grammar School with Lucy Cranwell and Lucy Moore going on to University with them]. Subjects were always topical: flowers seen in the previous week; accounts of field outings; brief replies to letters received, some from children who later became well-known biologists".

Among the first members of her Star Native Wildflower Circle were Barbara Menzies (later Dr Segedin) and Richmond Afford, whom to her delight she met again in 1995. The ever-questioning, very focused Bill Liley (1929 – 1983, later Sir William) she met by chance that year at the Museum and learned of his life near native bush in the King Country. Professor John Morton as a youngster was encouraged by Lucy (21). Altogether Lucy wrote 150 articles for the Star in its coloured-comics section and a number of others for the paper’s staider Enzed Junior, the latter covering descriptions of places and people visited overseas in the mid-thirties. The following titles indicate the range of subjects covered: "Cook’s scurvy grass", "Rauhuia/Our only true flax", "Brown armies of the spring/Rauaruhe or bracken", "Raurenga/Our kidney fern", "Giants of the forest/I.Totara", "Back to the forest/Sweet mahoe", "Mountain gold/The lure of buttercups"; from a run inland to Cairo from the Orient Line ship at the Red Sea port came "Egypt/Gift of the Nile".

You can feel her eagerness to share her love of wild things in the following excerpt from a piece about manuka,

"Rain plays on the manuka, warmly and softly, freeing a sharp aroma from the wee [bronzy] green leaves. The campfire, too, sends that unforgettable fragrance on the air in a tangle of pearl-grey smoke. You will remember how often you have tried to dodge the drift of smoke as night fell in the dark glade. It hurt the eyes then, but it hurts the memory so much more, they say, when the carefree days in the open are over, or when the long, grey Ocean of Kiwa separates one from youth, and the friends of youth, and all the jolly days when manuka gave a scented bunk, firing, and a feast for the eyes by seashore, river, lake, and windy ridge".

With reference to Enzed Junior, Ruth Park in the first volume of her autobiography "A Fence Around the Cuckoo" (24, p. 249) has written,

"It comprised four pages of text carefully designed to arouse utmost interest in the children, who in those days had no television to entertain them; children’s radio programmes were brief, sparse and sloppy. Two of our pages were devoted to older readers; this text was superb, cajoled by Peter Pan [Mike Abbott] from experts in fields stimulating to older kids, and intended to supplement the Secondary School syllabus". One of the writers for Enzed Junior was E.Graham Turbott (b.1914) an entomologist and bird specialist who later became Director of Auckland Institute and Museum. Notable articles in Enzed Junior included one in December 1939 by pioneer monarch butterfly breeder Tom Skeates of Titirangi, Auckland (25, p. 160).

An important contribution Lucy made to Auckland Museum and to New Zealand botany was approximately 4000 plant specimens she collected for the Museum herbarium during her 14_ years as Museum botanist. Cameron (5) gives an account of her contribution in this field.

At the age of 30 which I take as a measure of when a scientist becomes active in science, Lucy had published 6 research papers in New Zealand science journals, including joint papers with Lucy Moore. A bibliography of Lucy’s publications is recorded in Cameron (5).

Overseas travel

The two Lucies’ overseas experience began in May 1935 when they sailed steerage to Sydney to join an Orient Lines ship for a £70 return fare that offered ports-of-call around the southern coast of Australia, then on to Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Aden, a Red Sea stop allowing access to Cairo by limousine, and finally Gibraltar. Britain was "home" in the old sense to both: the return to Auckland, for Lucy Cranwell, was to be via Curaçao (where tall cacti were first seen in moonlight), with a stop off Pitcairn Island, where she was able to make brief contact with one of the Pitcairners with whom she had corresponded for some time.

Lucy records (15) that they found England somehow too urban, too familiar, and they went at once to Scandinavia to pay tribute to the memory of Linnaeus at his homes in Hammarby and Uppsala; in Norway they tramped down the glacier to Hardanger Fiord (where German troops were so soon to invade); they visited botanical gardens in Copenhagan as well, and arrived in England to spend the next week tramping in Yorkshire with Dr W. Arthur Sledge (1904 – 1991) of Leeds University who had been their guest on Rangitoto and at Anawhata in 1929, after he had been studying in the field with Dr Leonard Cockayne. They soon found that,

"…to most botanists we met New Zealand meant Cockayne. We were proud to have known him and his mana opened every door to us" (19).

In London they visited Kew and attended a two-day Empire Botanical Congress before going in September to the 6th International Botanical Congress in Amsterdam,

"…where all the botanists in the world seemed to have congregated" (19).


At the International Botanical Congress in Amsterdam, because of her interest in the Waikato bogs, Lucy was invited by Professor Lennart von Post (1884 – 1951) of Stockholm to learn his method of pollen analysis as a means of interpreting through pollen and spores something of the postglacial history of New Zealand vegetation. Von Post and Dr Gunnar Erdtman (1892-?) were the leaders of this new study, now known as palynology. With their help, and that of Professor G. Einar Du Rietz (1895 – 1967) of Uppsala University who provided many needed pollen samples from his 1929 collections in New Zealand, study of the peat samples collected by Dr Caldenius (see above) went on for over four months, with an introduction to Swedish bogs ending at Komosse, a famous raised (ombrogenous) bog just before it froze.

Von Post, having already secured some analyses from Tierra del Fuegian peats (also collected by Dr Caldenius) hoped to make correlations on material from both Hemispheres, he was,

"…impatient to know what [the New Zealand peat strata] could reveal about the early [Holocene] vegetation of New Zealand" (19).

Lucy commented (15) that from the collaborative effort, dependent as well on those who sent pollen and spore samples from New Zealand, chief being H. H. Allan, Lucy Moore, Naera Mackie (Jones) and Norman Potts (1886 – 1970), there emerged the first pollen diagrams from Australasia. It was of course undateable at that time but the deposits are now known to be under 13,000 years old, and thus developed within the same time-range as the Scandinavian bogs. The study was published in Stockholm as "Post-Pleistocene pollen diagrams from the Southern Hemisphere" in Geographiska Annaler (38).

Lucy recalls (15),

"Von Post was a giant of a man, so eager to diet that he kept his students (and myself) on a lunch regime of one biscuit each and cocoa without sugar or milk. Everything depended on his drive and enthusiasm; he was over-generous in making me senior author".

Lucy Moore (19) commented further on this seminal research,

"To me it seems miraculous that so much was accomplished in five short months of the frigid Stockholm winter: to set off from scratch to get to know the pollen grains well enough to identify them in this difficult medium; and then, with von Post, to translate this information into a picture of the probable vegetation and so deduce the changes in climate; and as well as to complete the writing of the paper! …This sojourn in Stockholm opened a whole new field of study, not only for LMC, but for New Zealand botany in general".

When Lucy returned to New Zealand, palynology was to continue as her major research tool. In 1938 she was invited to join the Hawaiian Bog Survey, led by Professor C. F. Skottsberg (1880-1963) famed for his Pacific and Antarctic plant research, in a study of the ecology of the montane bogs of the Hawaiian Islands, their ages unknown at that time. Lucy recorded (15) that a month was spent solo by Lucy at the Bishop Museum and in search for suitable areas for boring in the Kohala Range (Hawaii) and on Molokai, where she hoped to make comparisons with the sloping bogs on Te Moehau. On Molokai she received much assistance from an expatriate New Zealand naturalist, George Munro, and from Henry Weibke, long interested in the bogs. The third member of the Survey, Olof Selling in 1947 produced an invaluable account of the pollen and spore types of Hawaii and an outstanding pollen-statistical survey of changes in vegetation reflected in the peat layers that appeared related to changes in post-glacial climate. In 1938 Professor Skottsberg visited New Zealand in order to meet our botanists and to see at last the southern beech Nothofagus forests so like those he had known in Chile. He also opened the Cockayne Memorial Garden in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens (28); he had always been a staunch admirer of Dr Cockayne’s work.

Lucy revisited some of the Hawaiian bogs in 1961 and in 1984 began a study of Kanaele Bog on Kauai. Dates of well over 34,000 years have been obtained for this little-known bog (15). True to her interest in preservation of wild areas she helped the Molokai people with the cost of building a redwood boardwalk into and across Pepeopae Bog in Kamakou Reserve in order to make access easier while protecting the habitat from erosion by rain and the trampling of people and feral animals. Native violets now flower between the slats of the boardwalk (15).

Lucy’s long-term interest in the southern beeches, triggered by finding a lone hard beech (Nothofagus truncata) by Henderson Creek when she was very young (15), is shown by several papers dealing with their pollen morphology and its use in tracing the distribution of the genus (Nothofagus), living and fossil, in the Gondwana countries. Following work with von Post she described in 1939 (6) the pollen of all the species known before the recognition of the New Guinea and New Caledonian N. brassii-type.

Fossil Nothofagus grains were reported from Seymour Island, Antarctica (8), and more from erratics of McMurdo Sound (42); both accounts appeared in the journal Nature. A joint account of an Eocene assemblage from southernmost Chile, with the Australian palynologist Isobel C. Cookson (1893-?) as senior author, was written in 1963 but, by mischance, not printed until 1967 (34).

In the meantime, Lucy had been asked to arrange a symposium on Pacific pollen and spore work, still in its infancy, for the 10th Pacific Science Congress, to be held in Honolulu in 1961. Lucy recorded (15) that Russian specialists had promised papers, but they did not attend, so emphasis fell on "southern" work, one valuable contribution being Basil Balme’s paper on ancient Australian types (4). These papers were published by the University of Hawaii Press in "Ancient Pacific Floras: The Pollen Story" (10). This volume included her paper "Antarctica: cradle or grave for its Nothofagus" (10). She made another contribution – "Nothofagus: living and fossil" – to J. L. Gressitt’s symposium at the same conference (published in "Pacific Basin Biogeography", 9). Lucy has suggested that the climatic conditions under which the Antarctic beeches grew before the last major glaciation were comparable with,

"…those holding for the mixed communities now existing in the frost-free Auckland Province lowlands" (11).

She added in a letter (15),

"I was incorrect in thinking, however, that the continent could have moved southward into the cooler latitudes (as India had moved northward); we know now that Antarctica has long been centred on the Pole".

Lucy Moore had wondered (19) whether her friend would pursue or be pursued with respect to her involvement with pollen studies. It is clear from the letter quoted (15) that "both came true", as she added regretfully,

"…Whereas a pollen survey of the monocotyledons as Part I of "New Zealand Pollen Studies" was published jointly by the Harvard Press and the Auckland Museum (7), Part II (dicotyledons) was left unfinished after much work though I had debts to many friends who had helped supply samples over the years. I managed the text fairly well, but could not produce the hundreds of illustrations to the ever-higher standard required. Now, with the appearance in 1993 of "Pollen Grains of New Zealand Dicotyledonous Plants" by Dr Neville T. Moar [b. 1926] of Lincoln, New Zealand [18] we have a concise, easy-to-use, up-to-date account, beautifully illustrated, the frontispiece of a sundew pollen tetrad being a joy to behold". Lucy has influenced later researchers in palynology both in New Zealand and worldwide. She encouraged Dr W. F. Harris (1903 – 1997) to commence a career in science and introduced him to palynology at the Auckland Institute and Museum in 1939 (17). Harris was to become a pioneer in palynology in New Zealand. Lucy had in turn acknowledged the help she received from Harris when he was assisting at the Museum (15). Other researchers in New Zealand were encouraged by Lucy, including Dr Moar.

Lucy married Captain (later Major) Watson Smith (1897-1993) in September 1943. It was a wartime marriage when Watson Smith was attached to the 13th U.S. Air Force, 12th Photo Intelligence Detachment. At the time of their marriage Watson Smith was 10 years older than Lucy and they were separated only by Watson’s death in 1993 at the age of 96.

Watson had attended Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and the Harvard Law School; he practised law in Providence and Cincinnati, before turning to archaeological fieldwork in Colorado. He became an eminent researcher with expertise in ceramic classification and Pueblo ethnology, publishing widely on the murals recovered at the Awatovi site in Arizona. Their son Benjamin was born in 1947. Watson’s only return to law was in co-authoring a pioneer publication on tribal law – that of the Zuni Indians of New Mexico.

After Lucy’s marriage (celebrated in another poem by Arnold Wall, published in 19) she moved to the United States in early 1944 to join her husband, still in the Air Force, living at first in Orlando, Florida, and then in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for 8 years where she had many helpful contacts with Harvard Professors Irving Bailey, Elso Barghoorn and Richard Howard. She had met the last-named first at the Jungle Survival School near Orlando where she found he was using "Food Is Where You Find It" (41) in his classes. In Tucson, where she lived in later years near her son Ben and his family, she had been a Research Associate in Palynology since 1961 at the University of Arizona, working independently on Hawaiian and Southern Hemisphere sediments and their microfossils.

Living and fossil taxa named in Lucy’s honour are recorded by Cameron (5): including Nothofagidites cranwelliae (Couper) Mildenhall & Pocknall, representing an extinct New Zealand southern beech linked with the living species now restricted to New Guinea and New Caledonia. This type was first found by Lucy in ash beds near the Whangamarino Railway Station in northern Waikato. Cranwellia Srivastava, reported first from New Zealand by R. A. Couper as Elytranthe striatus (being likened to pollen grains in the mistletoe family), has proved more common from Siberia to North America and is valued in precise dating of certain beds (15,32), and Cranwellipollis Martin (a genus of fossil proteaceous pollen grains).

A feature of Lucy’s life and work was her continued interest in and the maintenance of strong, affectionate and supportive links with New Zealand, especially with the organisations and colleagues she knew before she left the country 56 years ago. Gifts to the University of Auckland include the provision for little-known awards in her mother’s name to foster writing about the Auckland countryside. A second gift made possible an estuarine study by Professor V. J. Chapman (1910 – 1980) and a student, J. W. Ronaldson published in 1958 (33); this dealt mainly with manawa, the mangrove. Lucy also made a generous gift in 1998 to A. D. Thomson for his Centre for Studies in New Zealand Science History. She also shared in the Anawhata hut transfer to the University and, with her husband, shared in the gift of a small C. F. Goldie portrait of a Waikato chieftain, Matika Whakarua, to the Waikato Museum (3).

Lucy early became a member of the Auckland Institute and Museum (then in Princes Street, Auckland), having been nominated by Henry C. Swan of Henderson in 1926; she was made an Honorary Life Member of the Museum in 1964 and a Fellow in 1999. She became a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London (FLS) in 1938 and of the Royal Society of New Zealand (FRSNZ) in 1944 and was the second woman scientist to be so honoured, the first being Dr K. M. Curtis (1892 – 1994). Lucy was the first woman to receive the Society’s Hector Medal (1954) for her contributions to the advancement of plant science. In 1938 she had a 6-month Fellowship from the Bishop Museum in Hawaii for her bog studies. In 1989 the American Association of Stratigraphic Palynologists made her an Honorary Member,

"…in recognition of her pioneering research which has materially contributed to our understanding of Southern Hemisphere palynomorphs and the evolution and paleoecology of the Gondwana floras".

Lucy was elected to Life Membership of the Auckland University Field Club in 1975 and was a major supporter of its journal (Tane). She was patron of the Auckland Botanical Society which she founded in 1937 and the Waitakere Ranges Protection Society. In 1960 Lucy received a DSc in botany from Auckland University and in 1992 was awarded an Honorary DSc from Auckland.

Though Lucy left New Zealand 56 years ago, her passion for botany, her contribution to museum work, and especially her enthusiasm to help engender a love of plants by youngsters will long be remembered. Professor John Morton in his 1994 Lucy Cranwell Lecture (21) wrote,

"Lucy herself had a renaissance vision. In a day when the University had scarcely thought to make natural history available to ordinary people, or those of us still at school, Lucy had – with the rest of the small handful of Museum staff – succeeded in this ahead of her time".

Lucy’s contribution to botanical science will remain a monument to a dedicated botanist.

Lucy is survived by her son Benjamin.


This obituary was initially prepared as part of an essay for Lucy’s entry in "New Zealand Women in Science" (to be published) and benefitted immensely from her generosity in providing her own extensive comments on her career and details about her family background and her formative years. This was completed in 1999. Lucy insisted that her "Museum experience made her a Jack-of-all-botanical trades" (15).

I am grateful for the assistance of Mr Anthony E. Wright, Mr E. K. Cameron and Dr N. T. Moar. Mr E. G. Turbott kindly provided information about the publication Enzed Junior. Dick Scott’s "Fire on the Clay" (25) was a source of information about the Henderson area in the early days. Mrs Eleanor Percy (Lucy’s niece) and her husband Colin kindly checked a draft of the original text.


1. Anonymous 1937: Proceedings of the Royal Society of N.Z. 1936. Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of N.Z. 66: 442.

2. Anonymous 1944: Island food/Booklet for airmen/Auckland Museum’s manual. N.Z. Herald, 6 January.

3. Anonymous 1986: Museum receives artful bequest. Auckland Star, 9 May.

4. Balme, B. E. 1964: The palynological record of Australian pre-Tertiary floras. In: Cranwell, L. M. (Editor) "Ancient Pacific Floras: The Pollen Story". Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press (Tenth Pacific Science Congress Series, Honolulu, 1961). Pp. 49 – 80.

5. Cameron, E. K. 2000: Obituary: Lucy May Cranwell, MA,DSc, DSc (Hon), FLS (Lond.), FRSNZ, 1907 – 2000. New Zealand Journal of Botany 38: 527 – 535.

6. Cranwell, L. M. 1939: Southern beech pollens. Records of the Auckland Institute and Museum 2: 175 – 196.

7. Cranwell, L. M. 1953: New Zealand pollen studies. The monocotyledons. A comparative account. Bulletin of the Auckland Institute and Museum No.3, 91 pp.

8. Cranwell, L. M. 1959: Fossil pollen from Seymour Island, Antarctica. Nature 184: 1782 – 1785.

9. Cranwell, L. M. 1963: Nothofagus: living and fossil. In: Gressitt, J. L. (Editor) "Pacific Basin Biogeography". Honolulu, Bishop Museum Press (Tenth Pacific Science Congress, 1961). Pp. 387 – 400.

10. Cranwell, L. M. 1964: Antarctica: cradle or grave for its Nothofagus? In: Cranwell, L.M. (Editor) "Ancient Pacific Floras: The Pollen Story". Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press (Tenth Pacific Science Congress Series, Honolulu, 1961). Pp. 3 – 18.

11. Cranwell, L. M. 1973: Palynological intimations of some pre-Oligocene Antarctic climates. In: Bakker, E.M. Van Zinderen (Editor) "Palaeoecology of Africa and of the Surrounding Islands and Antarctica". Capetown,Balkeman (S.C.A.R. Conference on Quaternary Studies, held in Cambridge, England, July 24 – 27, 1968). Pp. 1 – 19.

12. Cranwell, L. M. 1980: Letter to A. D. Thomson, 29 September.

13. Cranwell, L. M. 1981: "The Botany of Auckland". Auckland, Auckland Institute and War Memorial Museum. 156 pp.

14. Cranwell, L. M. 1993: Letter to A. D. Thomson, 21 May.

15. Cranwell, L. M. 1995-1999: Letters and notes to A. D. Thomson, 17 November, 1995 – 6 May 1999.

16. Julian, Rae 1989: Lucy Moore: pioneering botanist. In: Dann, Christine and Lynch, Pip (Editors) "Wilderness Women: Stories of New Zealand Women at Home in the Wilderness". Auckland, Penguin Books. Pp. 66 – 78.

17. Mildenhall, D. C. 1993: Dr W. F. Harris, palynologist: an appreciation on the occasion of his 90th birthday, 18 June 1993. Geological Society of N.Z. Newsletter No.101: 28 – 31.

18. Moar, N. T. 1993: "Pollen Grains of New Zealand Dicotyledonous Plants". Lincoln, New Zealand, Manaaki Whenua Press. 200 pp.

19. Moore, Lucy B. 1986: Lucy Cranwell Lecture 4 September 1985. Auckland Botanical Society Newsletter 41: 19 – 35.

20. Moore, Lucy B. 1987: Was a double Tararua crossing 54 years ago so special? Tararua No.40: 44 – 45.

21. Morton, John 1995: The Lucy Cranwell Lecture – The natural community: forest and shore, 5 October 1994. Auckland Botanical Society Journal 50 (1): 1 – 14.

22. Nelson, Wendy A. 1994: Marine invaders of New Zealand coasts: Auckland Botanical Society Lucy Cranwell Lecture 6 October 1993, University of Auckland. Auckland Botanical Society Journal 49 (1): 4 – 14.

23. Oliver, W.R.B. 1923: Marine littoral plant and animal communities in New Zealand. Transactions and Proceedings of the N.Z. Institute 54: 496 – 545.

24. Park, Ruth 1992: "A Fence Around the Cuckoo". Victoria, Australia,Viking. 294 pp.

25. Scott, Dick 1979: "Fire on the Clay: the Pakeha Comes to West Auckland". Auckland, Southern Cross Books. 224 pp.

26. Sinclair, Keith 1983: "A History of the University of Auckland 1883 – 1983". Auckland, Auckland University Press. 364 pp.

27. Thomson, A. D. 1983: "The Life and Correspondence of Leonard Cockayne". Christchurch, Caxton Press. 55 pp.

28. Thomson, A. D. 1985: Opening of Cockayne Memorial Garden in Christchurch Botanic Gardens on 4 November 1938 by Professor Carl Skottsberg. Botany Division Newsletter No.101: 4 – 5.

29. Thomson, A. D. 1993: Leonard Cockayne’s view on the possum was wrong. New Zealand Botanical Society Newsletter No.33: 7 – 8.

30. Thomson, A. D. 2000: The possum in New Zealand as viewed by authorities in the 1920s. New Zealand. Botanical Society Newsletter No.62: 16 – 18.

31. Wall, Arnold 1930: Tramping girls of Auckland. Auckland Star, 1 November.

32. Wright, Anthony E. 1995: Letter to A. D. Thomson, 19 November.

33. Chapman, V. J. and Ronaldson, J. W. 1958: "The Mangrove and Salt-marsh Flats of the Auckland Isthmus". DSIR Bulletin No.125. 79 pp.

34. Cookson, I. C. and Cranwell, L. M. 1967: Lower Tertiary microplankton, spores and pollen grains from southernmost Chile. Micropaleontology 13: 204 – 215.

35. Cranwell, L .M. and Moore, L. B. 1931: The vegetation of Maungapohatu. Records of the Auckland Institute and Museum 1: 71 – 80.

36. Cranwell, L .M. and Moore, L. B. 1938: Intertidal communities of the Poor Knights Islands, New Zealand. Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of N.Z. 67: 375 – 403.

37. Cranwell, L .M. and Moore, L. B. 1936: The occurrence of kauri in montane forest on Te Moehau. N.Z. Journal of Science and Technology 18: 531 – 543.

38. Cranwell, L. M. and von Post, L. 1936: Post-Pleistocene pollen diagrams from the Southern Hemisphere. I. New Zealand. Geografiska Annaler 18: 308 – 347.

39. Moore, L. B. and Cranwell, L. M. 1934: Induced dominance of Microlaena avenacea (Raoul). Records of the Auckland Institute and Museum 1: 219 – 238.

40. Wall, Professor Arnold and Cranwell, Lucy M. 1943: "The Botany of Auckland". Auckland, Wilson and Horton Ltd. 48 pp.

41. Cranwell, Lucy M.; Green, J. E. and Powell, A. W. B. 1943: "Food Is Where You Find It: A Guide to Emergency Foods of the Western Pacific". Auckland, Auckland Institute and Museum. 76 pp.

Cranwell, L. M.; Harrington, H. J. and Speden, I. G. 1960: Lower Tertiary microfossils from McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. Nature 186: 700 – 702.

Caption to photograph

Lucy Cranwell, enlarged from a 1929 photograph of the Auckland War Memorial Museum staff. The portrait was provided by Mr Cameron from the Auckland Museum collection.

A. D. Thomson