The general face of the country is certainly pleasing, being diversified with gentle ascents, and little winding vallies, covered for the most part with large spreading trees, which afford a succession of leaves in all seasons. In those places where trees are scarce, a variety of flowering shrubs abound, most of them entirely new to an European, and surpassing in beauty, fragrance, and number, all I ever saw in an uncultivated state: among these, a tall shrub, bearing an elegant white flower, which smells like English May, is particularly delightful, and perfumes the air around to a great distance. The species of trees are few, and, I am concerned to add, the wood universally of so bad a grain, as almost to preclude a possibility of using it: the increase of labour occasioned by this in our buildings has been such, as nearly to exceed belief. These trees yield a profusion of thick red gum (not unlike the ‘sanguis draconis’) which is found serviceable in medicine, particularly in dysenteric complaints, where it has sometimes succeeded, when all other preparations have failed. To blunt its acrid qualities, it is usual to combine it with opiates.
The nature of the soil is various. That immediately round Sydney Cove is sandy, with here and there a stratum of clay. From the sand we have yet been able to draw very little; but there seems no reason to doubt, that many large tracts of land around us will bring to perfection whatever shall be sown in them. To give this matter a fair trial, some practical farmers capable of such an undertaking should be sent out; for the spots we have chosen for experiments in agriculture, in which we can scarce be supposed adepts, have hitherto but ill repaid our toil, which may be imputable to our having chosen such as are unfavourable for our purpose.
Except from the size of the trees, the difficulties of clearing the land are not numerous, underwood being rarely found, though the country is not absolutely without it. Of the natural meadows which Mr. Cook mentions near Botany Bay, we can give no account; none such exist about Port Jackson. Grass, however, grows in every place but the swamps with the greatest vigour and luxuriancy, though it is not of the finest quality, and is found to agree better with horses and cows than sheep. A few wild fruits are sometimes procured, among which is the small purple apple mentioned by Cook, and a fruit which has the appearance of a grape, though in taste more like a green gooseberry, being excessively sour: probably were it meliorated by cultivation, it would become more palatable.
Fresh water, as I have said before, is found but in inconsiderable quantities. For the common purposes of life there is generally enough; but we know of no stream in the country capable of turning a mill: and the remark made by Mr. Anderson, of the dryness of the country round Adventure Bay, extends without exception to every part of it which we have penetrated.