Friday, November 30, 2012

Black-fruited Sedge

Cyperus tetraphyllus
Plants’ scientific names can be as unsatisfactory as their common names. “Tetraphyllus” means “four leaves”, but this is obviously not a four-leafed plant.

I wonder whether the name might have been a reference to the leaf-like bracts that surround each seed-head. Perhaps the first plant examined seemed to be consistent in having four of them?

In practice, though, they can have anywhere between three and six bracts. In this plant, which I grew from seed at home, they consistently have five, of varying sizes.

Isn’t it a lovely, spiky-looking thing? The spikes are soft, though, and don’t prickle the legs of passers-by.
In the wild, this plant is found lining the edges of shady rainforest paths. When not in seed, it resembles the introduced plant, mondo grass, and would make an excellent native substitute for it. The lovely seedheads are a bonus.
It is easily grown from seed (as are all our native sedges), but can also be purchased from specialist suppliers.
It is somewhat drought tolerant (growing naturally in Goomburra National Park), but probably won't tolerate frost.

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