Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Good Enough Plant

Goodenia grandiflora
Goodenias are very Australian little plants. Of the 179 species, only one (which grows in Java) is not Australian at all, and almost all of them are endemic to Australia (a word meaning that they occur nowhere else). They were named after a botanically-minded British bishop, one Samuel Goodenough.
They are indeed good enough to be grown in gardens, though it’s rarely done.

Perhaps the most popular is this one, the very fragrant “mountain primrose”, which I photographed on the southern slopes of the Bunya Mountains a few weeks ago. The 3cm yellow flowers are larger than those of most goodenias, and come in showy flushes.

It makes a very attractive little sub-shrub for the garden. This photo shows two plants grown close together in a Toowoomba garden. As you can see, they are doing a great job of filling in space and excluding weeds.

A close look at the flower reveals a rather odd spoon-shaped structure inside. It is a pollen presenter (indusium), enclosing the tip of the style,  which is the female bit of the flower. The stamens (those little brown things) shed their pollen before the flower opened, and it was caught in the pollen-presenter at a time when the style was somewhat shorter. As you see it now, the stamens are dying off, and the style has grown to hold the pollen presenter out  in a position where it is the first thing a visiting insect will meet as it enters the flower.

The flowers are sticky. Children can stick them on their earlobes or clothing, for very natural jewellery.

These plants like a semi-shady position. In the garden above they get the morning sun only, and in their favourite site at the Bunya Mountains they are on a steep south-facing slope.
They tolerate light frost and quite a bit of drought.

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