Pimelea spicata

Distribution Map
Family: Thymelaeaceae
Distribution: Coastal headlands and woodlands on the central coast of New South Wales
Common Name: Rice flower.
Derivation of Name: Pimelea; from Greek pimele, soft fat, presumably referring to the oily seeds or fleshy cotyledons.
spicata; from Latin spica, a spike, referring to the arrangement of the flowers in terminal spikes.
Conservation Status: Listed as Endangered under the EPBC Act* (ie. facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future, as determined in accordance with prescribed criteria). Classified as 3E under the ROTAP * system.

General Description:

Pimelea is a genus of about 80 species, most of which are Australian but some also occur on islands to the north and in New Zealand. Most are shrubs but some annual species are found in tropical areas. The name "rice flower" has been applied to many members of the genus, a few of which are cultivated to a limited extent.

Pimelea spicata
Pimelea spicata
Photo: Brian Walters

Pimelea spicata is a small shrub rarely exceeding about 50 cm in height. It has small, ellipical leaves up to 20 mm in length. Small white or pale pink flowers occur in spring on spikes at the ends of the branches. Each spike may comprise up to 20 flowers. The species generally occurs on clay soils. It is reported that the plant sprouts from a carrot-like tap root after fire.

This species has declined in numbers considerably, as much of its habitat has been cleared for urban development. It is now confined to a few remnant populations which are inadequately conserved. It is now regarded as being under serious threat of extinction in the short term (< 20 years).

P.spicata is an attractive small plant but fairly innocuous as far as its horticultural potential is concerned. It is difficult, but probably not impossible, to maintain plants in cultivation and a conservation programme for the species is being undertaken at the Mt Annan Botanic Garden south west of Sydney.

Because of the rarety of the species, seed is unlikely to be available and, based on experience with other Pimelea species, would be difficult to germinate. Cuttings are successful but, again, propagating material is very scarce.


* EPBC Act = Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999;
  ROTAP = Rare or Threatened Australian Plants (Briggs and Leigh, 1988)
  For further information refer the Australian Plants at Risk page


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