Franke Scrub at Highfields is full of treasures, and this week we found another one.
This delicate-looking little clematis may have been lurking underground in seed form all through the long drought.
I was delighted with the find, as I have been searching for this plant around the district for some time. It is classified (nationally and in Queensland) as “vulnerable”, and is one of those plants which could so easily go missing forever.
The species is restricted to basalt-derived loam soils above 500 m, in south Queensland and northern New south Wales, and occurs in dry rainforests, usually on stream banks.
It is threatened by development (which has destroyed much of its habitat), and by grazing and bushfires.
The plants do have the potential to reach the canopy of rainforests, but are often seen as small understorey plants. A group could easily be grown on a small trellis.
The slender-petalled white flowers turn purplish-pink as they age. See photo at http://www.rainforestpublishing.com.au/index.php?href=botanical&dir=botanical_pages&subpage=view&ext=php&array_place=3&item_id=212#image_212
Neither flowers nor seeds are conspicuous, but the foliage with its small, deeply lobed leaflets, is charming. Like all clematis, they climb using the unusual technique of wrapping their leaf-stems around any supports they can find. They give the impression of fragility, belying the actual hardiness of the plant.
This is a desirable, drought-hardy, garden species, and where possible, gardeners should grow it to help prevent its extinction. The plants may be difficult to acquire, though. I’ve never seen them offered for sale. They can be difficult to bring up from seed, which must be fresh for success, yet may take a long time to germinate.
If the chance arises to buy or raise some, do be sure to put in a number of plants to increase your chance of having both male and female ones. The fluffy seedheads will only grow on the female plants (but the males are needed for pollination).
yet this is a hardy plant of our local dry vine scrubs.
For more on Franke Scrub, see http://www.frankescrub.blogspot.com