Christmas Bells don’t really belong on this blog, but I can’t resist including these lovely flowers which I saw last week.
To find them in the wild, we have to get away from the local basalt soils which are my usual topic. Christmas bells need soil with very much better drainage.
It is well worth the four-hour drive from Toowoomba to the Gibraltar Range National Park (east of Glen Innes), to see them in the Christmas season.
They are there in their thousands this year.
They grow in open, swampy country, on peaty, granite-based sands. Their habitat is dominated by rushes and sedges of various species, and includes some low-growing shrubs.
The pH of their favoured habitat is said to get as low as 3.5, though growers seem to regard 5.0 as the optimum for healthy plants.
The plant also grows on sandy soils near the south-east Queensland coast. It was once more widespread, with its Queensland habitat extending from the NSW border to Fraser Island. Nowadays, the sandy swamps where they once grew in profusion have largely been replaced by suburban development, and Christmas bells are very rare indeed in the gardens that have been built on their native soil.
It is classed as an endangered species in Queensland.
I notice that internet sites claim that Christmas bells can have up to 20 bells per stem. this was certainly not the case with the plants we saw, which typically had two plants per stem, though some had three. They are large flowers, and didn't seem any less beautiful for that!
Note the long, conspicuous ovary, which will develop into a seed capsule.
As the capsules develop, the flowers turn their heads to the sky.
In cultivation, Christmas bells are commonly grown in pots, where their sun, soil and moisture requirements can be taken care of, and they are not overcome by more vigorously growing garden plants.
They are said to tolerate light frosts.