In June 1901, he attended the first conference of horticulturists in New Zealand at Dunedin where he presented a paper on the plants of the Chatham Islands and advocated the establishment of experimental plant research stations in New Zealand. This helped to establish Cockayne's reputation.
Cockayne was a member of the 1907 Sub-Antarctic Islands Scientific Expedition. The main aim of the expedition was to extend the magnetic survey of New Zealand by investigating Auckland and Campbell Islands but botanical, biological and zoological surveys were also conducted. The voyage also resulted in rescue of the castaways of the shipwreck the Dundonald in the Auckland Islands.
Cockayne's major contributions to botany were in plant ecology and in his theories of hybridisation. In 1899 he published the first New Zealand account of successional changes in vegetation. Between 1897 and 1930 he published 49 papers in the Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand.
The Cockayne Reserve in Christchurch, the Cockayne Nature Walk near Otira on the West Coast, and the Cockayne Lookout in Otari-Wilton's Bush (Wellington) dedicated solely to New Zealand native plants, are all named after him.
- New Zealand Plants and Their Story, 1910
- Observations Concerning Evolution, Derived from Ecological Studies in New Zealand
- Vegetation of New Zealand
- The Cultivation of New Zealand Plants 1923
- Trees of New Zealand (with E. Phillips Turner)
- Report on the dune-areas of New Zealand: their geology, botany and reclamation.
- Report on a botanical survey of Stewart Island
- Cockayne, Leonard (1921). Die Vegetation der Erde. Sammlung pflanzengeographischer monographien (html) (in German). XIV: The Vegetation of New Zealand. Leipzig: W. Engelmann. Retrieved 4 April 2009.
- Hill, A. W. (1935). "Leonard Cockayne. 1855-1934". Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society 1 (4): 442. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1935.0008.
- Thomson, A.D. "Biography of Leaonard Cockayne". The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
- "Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand 1868-1961". National Library of New Zealand. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
- ledzep (Dec 05, 2010). "Cockayne Nature walk". Tracks. Retrieved August 10, 2012.
- "Author Query for 'Cockayne'". International Plant Names Index.
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- the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
- Leonard Cockayne: Horticulturist
- Biography in Botanical Discovery in New Zealand: The Resident Botanists by W. R. B. Oliver
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