Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Woolly Frogsmouth

Philydrum lanuginosum
Well now, here’s an unusual thing! This plant was named in 1788 from Joseph Banks’ 1770 collection, and hasn’t had a name change since! There has been so much fiddling about with the botanical names of Australian plants that it comes as a surprise to find something that has been stable since the beginning.

I photographed these plants at the Gumbi Gumbi Garden out at the University of Southern Queensland. They are fast-growing perennials, that like to grow in shallow water or constantly wet mud.

These are rather young plants. They will die back to their roots each winter, which helps them survive light frosts. Come spring, they will put up fresh leaves, and flower continuously through all the warmer months of the year.

The cheerful yellow flowers open progressively up the spike, so these plants always have some flowers on display.
In larger water bodies, woolly frogsmouth can be left to naturalise, with new plants growing from seed. It is a useful habitat plant, and helps to stabilise the banks at the waters edge.
If it is being used in a garden pond, gardeners are likely to want to reduce the size of the root - quite an easy matter - each winter. The older roots should be taken, with the more vigorous younger roots being left to grow for the next season’s display.
If grown in an underwater pot, they need repotting at the end of each season.
Fast-growing plants like this are very useful in a pond which is prone to unsightly algae. The woolly frogmouth plant’s fast growth uses much of the excess nutrient in the water, which would otherwise feed the algae. Annual removal of dead plant matter and the extra roots transfers the nitrogen to the compost heap, where it is better appreciated!

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