Saturday, February 7, 2015

Warrior bush

Apophyllum anomalum
Family: CAPPARACEAE
Female warrior bushes in Irongate conservation reserve are laden with fruit at the moment.



They are obviously very attractive to birds, as many of these fruits have been “robbed”, the seeds  taken and the skins left on the bush.



People can eat the fruit, too, should they want to, which is the reason this plant is sometimes known as “native currant”. (As there are some half a dozen other Australian plants also called native currants, and as the fruit isn’t really much like a currant at all, this is not a particularly useful common name!) They are sweet tasting, so won't give you a nasty shock if you put them in your mouth, but they are hardly worth the trouble. There is very little flesh between the inedible skin and the fruit.



Warrior bushes have tangled, somewhat spiny branches. Young plants have small, narrow leaves, but as they mature they lose them and the job of photosynthesis is done by the green branches alone.

  

The tiny spines make them a little unfriendly, though the branches tend to form a tight canopy which doesn’t put itself in the way of passers by. Birds like to nest in their protection.

Warrior bushes are in the same family as our native caper plants, and like them they host the various species of caper butterflies, which can be seen in great numbers almost all year round at Irongate.

Livestock also eat the branches, undeterred by the spines. The result is often a neat, well shaped bush. In sheep country they develop a clean-stemmed lollipop look, which teaches us how well the plants respond to pruning.

  

Old trees have wonderful trunks. This magnificent specimen at Gowrie Junction could well be several hundred years old.

This would be a very good plant for a formal garden, but don't expect quick results from a seedling. Warrior bushes would be best placed in between other shrubs, to mature and grow in their own time.
They are frost hardy, and tolerate extreme drought.


















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