Bidwill, John Carne (DNB00)

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BIDWILL, JOHN CARNE (1815–1853), botanist and traveller, was born in 1815 at Exeter, his father being a well-known citizen of that place. At an early age he went out to New South Wales, and entered into business as a merchant at Sydney. In February 1839 he started upon an exploring expedition in New Zealand. From Tawranga he made his way into hitherto unknown regions. So savage were the native tribes at that period that, shortly before the traveller's arrival at Tawranga, a band from Roturoa had seized a number of people and cooked them absolutely in sight of the inhabitants of the surrounding villages. Bidwill explored the shores of Lake Taupo; amongst other discoveries made, he found in the vicinity of Roturoa a species of eugenia, identified as the Earina mucronata. In the mountains of the Arrohaw he met with the organtic tree fern, the Mummuke. He next investigated the great plain of the Thames or Waiho.

Bidwill fell a victim to the spirit of investigation. While engaged in marking out a new road he was accidentally separated from his party, and lost himself, without his compass, in the bush. He struggled to extricate himself, remaining on one occasion eight days without food. In cutting his way with a pocket-hook through the scrub, he brought on internal inflammation, of which he eventually died. Bidwill was an ardent botanist. He contributed to the 'Gardener's Chronicle' many interesting papers upon horticultural subjects, but more especially on hybridising, in which he was an adept. 'To him,' says Professor Lindley, 'we owe the discovery of the famous Bunya-Bunya tree, subsequently named after him Araucaria Bidwilli, and of the Nymphæa gigantca, that Australian rival of the Victoria. By his friends, of whom he had more than most men, his loss will be found to be irreparable, and the colony in which he died could ill afford to lose him.' Bidwill, who died at Tinana, Maryborough, in March 1853, was commissioner of crown lands and chairman of the bench of magistrates for the district of Wide Bay, New South Wales.

[Bidwell's Rambles in New Zealand, 1841; Gardener's Chronicle, March 1853; Gent. Mag. 1863.]

G. B. S.