Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Native Plumbago

Plumbago zeylanica
Family: PLUMBAGINACEAE
Hasn’t this rain greened up the countryside beautifully?
Now is the time to get out and enjoy our local native plants.
Franke Scrub* is particularly beautiful, with its native plumbago in the understorey showing off how our local variety of the species has pretty blue flowers.


“Zeylanica” means “from Ceylon”, but it's not really only a Ceylonese plants. It's a genuine Australian native - one of those plants that we share with south-east Asia. Most of the species worldwide have rather boring white flowers, so you can see that our local is rather special.
In our district it grows naturally along the Range, and in hill scrubs as far west as Oakey.



It is an ideal water-efficient plant to grow among shrubs, where it wanders about, popping up where it pleases. It also grows in full sun, but never looks quite as pretty as it does in partial shade.

This plant is the native host plant for the Plumbago blue butterfly (Leptotes plinius).
 




It’s not easy to catch its blue wingtops in a photo, and the picture below doesn’t do justice to the brilliant blue flashes they make  in the bright sunlight. (On cloudy days, these butterflies tend to fly whenever the sun is out, and settle, apparently disappearing, each time it goes behind a cloud. )


Although native plumbago itself has a very diminished range here due to clearing, the butterfly is in no danger, as it is also able to use the shrubby introduced plumbago, Plumbago capensis, as a host.
Where butterfly host plants become isolated, some butterflies just don’t spread to other planting sites, as they are too far away. Your chances of attracting the butterfly by planting its native host are good because introduced plumbago is a popular garden plant, and acts as a bridge which can lead it to your garden.

*Franke Scrub, Cawdor, is on the western edge of Highfields. Carry on past the end of the bitumen of Franke Road, along a few hundred metres of good dirt road, to find it.

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