Friday, February 26, 2010

Small-leaved Tylophora

Tylophora grandiflora

I was delighted when a friend emailed me photos of these little flowers, which she had found in Franke Scrub at Highfields.
I hadn’t noticed before that this plant was there. It’s a dainty understorey climber, which normally only grows about to 2 metres high, and is easy to overlook when not in flower.

The long, slender seed follicles which will develop from these flowers are a curious and rather elegant shape – inflated near the base and tapering to a point at the end– very similar to those of the closely related species Secamone and Cynanchum. In the same way, they burst open to release seeds which float in the wind on their parachutes of silky hairs.
We sometimes see this drought hardy plant for sale in nurseries which specialise in native plants, and it would be suitable for small gardens, where it would decorate, rather than cover, a trellis that might be 1.5 or 2 metres high, and a metre or less wide. It needs a sheltered situation where it would get minimal exposure to direct sunlight. It does prefer well-drained soil, and is happy on our local red soil.
Asian species of Tylophora are regarded as important medicinal plants. Like many of our yet unstudied Australian plants, our local may prove of value to medical science.

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