Thursday, December 28, 2017


Xanthorrhoea macronema

This plant doesn’t really belong on a blog about Toowoomba plants at all, as it is not native here.

I decided to include it, however, out of affection for my old school at Southport, one of whose houses is called “Karragaroo”. The lovely old Aboriginal name for this equally lovely plant seems destined to be lost in the mists of time, so I decided to put it on the internet in the hope of reviving it.

The plant itself grows in coastal areas, from Fraser Island to Sydney, and would have been common in Southport at the time the school was founded in 1912.

The only other public record of the word “Karragaroo”  that I can find is in the name of a historic home in Ipswich, built in 1883, and of the street in which it is situated. It is now a National Trust home and documentation there does say that the word means “grasstree”, but fails to record that it referred to this particular trunkless species, Xanthorrhoea macronema. Nowadays it is more often called "bottlebrush grasstree”, which is descriptive, but does lack the romance of the old name.

Most of our grasstrees are known for their tall spikes of tiny white flowers.  Karragaroos' showy spikes, however, end in short, chunky, creamy-yellow flowerheads with long, soft stamens.

They are rich in nectar, and attracting honeyeaters, butterflies, and native bees.

When not flowering, the plants simply look like rather anonymous clumps of shiny green grass. In the wild you can fail to notice them at all, which is no doubt why so many of them have disappeared under developers' bulldozers. In early summer, however, they put up their head-high spikes, and make a great show.

Because the plants themselves are rather small, it would be easy to fit a good number of them into a garden, where they would make a spectacular display in the season.They could make very appealing garden edges, or be tucked into the back of perennial borders, to go unnoticed until flowering time.

They like well-drained soil, and full sun or part shade. The light, dappled shade under eucalypts is perfect for them.