Gomphrena canescens

Distribution Map
Family: Amaranthaceae
Distribution: Tropical areas of Western Australian, Northern Territory and Queensland in woodland and coastal dunes.
Common Name: Batchelors Buttons
Derivation of Name: Gomphrena... said to have been derived by C.Linnaeus from the ancient Greek, gromphaena, a plant with leaves alternately green and pink along the stem (i.e. Amaranthus tricolor) but more likely from gomphos (a club), referring to the globose heads of the type species1
canescens... from Latin canescens, hoary (white or grey haired), possibly referring to the greyish hairs on the leaves.
Conservation Status: Not considered to be at risk in the wild.

General Description:

Gomphrena is a genus of 100 or more species of low-growing annuals or perennials which occur mainly in Central and South America. There are about 35 Australian species including several yet to be formerly described. A number of the exotic species have naturalised in parts of Australia.

G.canescens is an annual or perennial species up to about 1 metre in height. Leaves are linear to narrowly elliptic. The small flowers occur between clusters of papery bracts towards the ends of the branches and it is the bracts that provide the colour in the composite flower heads. The flowers heads are usually white or pink, fading to white as they age. A deep red form is known from the Northern Territory. Flowering usually occurs from autumn to late winter and spring.

Gomphrena canescens

Gomphrena canescens
Flowers and growth habit of Gomphrena canescens
Photos: Brian Walters

G.canescens has not been widely cultivated to date but, despite its tropical origin, it has been successfully cultivated in more temperate areas (eg. the Australian Botanic Garden, Mt Annan, NSW and the Australian Garden, Cranbourne, Victoria). The plants require an open, sunny location in well drained soils which are not allowed to dry out.

Propagation can be carried out from seed but it is reported to be slow to germinate. Cuttings of firm, current season's growth may also be successful.


1. Derivation of genus name from Flora of Australia online.

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