Friday, February 27, 2009

Spade Flower

Hybanthus stellarioides (H. enneaspermus var stellaroides)
It doesn’t look much like a violet, does it?
But this little perennial, with its bright orange flowers, is quite closely related to violets.
It is a delicate-looking little plant which loves to grow amongst grasses in redsoils (as well as sandstone and granite soils). It is easy to establish in the kind of garden that has a rough patch of rarely-mown grass, as it self-seeds fairly easily. (It also finds its way into outdoor pots, where it thrives because of the bit of extra watering.)
It is an unassuming plant whose only enemy is the over-zealous gardener who, failing to recognise it without its flowers (which are produced over a long period in summer) and weeds it out by mistake.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Zornia dyctiocarpa
There are quite a few reasons for not being too fussy about having neatly mown lawns. That butterflies breed on grasses is one of them.
Another is that there are a number of pretty little native flowers, too small to be considered as garden specimens, which thrive amongst the grasses.
This little pea-flower is one of them.
A small perennial herb which spreads from a central tap-root, it goes unnoticed for most of the year. Then in summer it sprinkles the lawn with its delightful little flowers. You can identify it by the unusual compound leaf which has two leaflets, as shown in the photo.
Zornia spreads by seed, and can become naturalised over a large patch of sunny lawn. It can tolerate some mowing during the flowering season, but if you are too thorough, and mow too closely, the flowers won’t be able to set seed. It’s a good reason for putting off the chore!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Deep Yellowwood now in Fruit

Rhodosphaera rhodanthema
Our local deep yellowwoods are fruiting particularly well, this year. What beautiful trees they are, with their bunches of long-lasting nut-brown fruits against the canopy of dark green leaves.
If you want to try growing these seeds for yourself, you’ll need to “scarify” them. Otherwise they are slow to germinate because they have to wait for their own hard seed-coating to decay before they can get through it.
"Cut off the end with side-cutters", I was advised. I found it was more a case of gnawing away carefully with said implement, (on the end opposite the stalk) until I could glimpse the waxy grey kernel inside.
These are fast-growing trees, producing a respectable little shade tree in four years.

See my article from June 2008 for more details, and photos of the showy flowers.

Hairy Lolly Bush

Clerodendrum tomentosum
I didn’t include this shrub in my book “Toowoomba Plants...Trees and Shrubs”, despite its obvious ornamental potential. I was concerned that with use of it as a garden plant, children might poison themselves by eating the fruit.
I had come across contradictory statements - that it was poisonous, and that it was edible. I thought that the fruits smelled so foul that no children would ever be likely to put them in their mouths. A friend said that he thought they smelled like chocolate!
I still think it smells like nothing I want in my mouth, and can only suggest that you sniff some for yourselves and decide whether you think these are suitable and safe garden plants. Now is the time to do it, as the fruits are out all around the district.
The plants are not conspicuously hairy. The fine hairiness is only discovered when we feel the leaves, (They feel feel like puppy’s ears.) Hence the name. They have showy clusters of sweet-smelling white flowers in spring, followed by these even more showy fruits.
In the bush they grow as very small trees or as scruffy shrubs. At their best, though, t they are pruned to waist height, and make neat, dense shrubs. They tend to sucker, and can regrow if cut (or burned) back to their roots.
The tuberous roots were eaten by the aborigines, which I would guess might be the origin of the “edible fruit” story. Perhaps the plant found its way onto a list, somewhere, of edible plants, and someone inferred that it was the fruits that were edible. But if anyone anywhere can set me straight on that I’d love to hear from you!
The photo at the bottom was taken at Ravensbourne in February last year, (at the entry to the track at Beutel’s Lookout). It is probably in fruit there again this year.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Ajuga australis
Here’s a little herb that’s related to lavender and salvia. Native ajuga is often grown in gardens, but we rarely see the local variety being used, which is a pity as this smaller, hairier bugle is much more drought hardy than plants brought in from elsewhere. This plant is one of many which have popped up of their own accord, in a dry and sunny spot in my own garden. We do see it around the district on hills and slopes.
It is a spreading groundcover which flowers over a long period in spring and summer, and otherwise just looks quietly ornamental with its red-backed leaves. It is typically a plant of grasslands, where it tends to scatter about, but it can make a spreading mat in good garden soil. It needs no watering, but will make a more dense mat if it’s given some occasionally, and if it’s grown in shade, where it’s leaves are a little larger.
The shape of its flowers, with their exaggerated bottom lips, tells us that the plant is pollinated by insects, which use the lips as landing stages. It is rich in both nectar and pollen and is a favourite with native bees.
It grows in full sun or part shade.