Xanthorrhoea minor

Distribution Map
Family: Xanthorrhoeaceae
Distribution: New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia in heath, woodland and open forest.
Common Name: Small grass tree.
Derivation of Name: Xanthorrhoea; from Greek xanthos, yellow and rheo, to flow, a reference to the resin that is obtained from these plants.
minor; from Latin minor, smaller or lesser, referring to the size of the plant in comparison with other members of the genus.
Conservation Status: Not considered to be at risk in the wild.

General Description:

This genus of about 15 species comprises perennials with an underground stem and with or without a tall, rough stem above the ground. The genus is related to the lilies but most botanists place the species in a separate family, the Xanthorrhoeaceae.

Xanthorrhoea minor    Xanthorrhoea sp fruits

Xanthorrhoea minor. Left; habit.
Above; Cluster of small flowers

Photos: Brian Walters

X.minor is a small, grass-like plant with arching, linear leaves to about 80 cm long. The leaves are usually concave in cross-section. This species does not develop an above ground trunk, however, it has a branched subterranean trunk which can produce a multi-crowned habit with leafy clumps developing at the top of each trunk. Although grass-like in appearance, the leaves are stiffer than those of typical grasses. Like other members of the genus, it is slow growing. There are two subspecies: subsp. minor and subsp. lutea, the differences not being particularly apparent to the non-botanist.

The individual flowers are white or cream and very small. They are clustered together in a spear-like spike which can reach about 1 metre in height. The flowers contain considerable nectar which was used by aborigines to produce a sweet drink by soaking the flowers in water. The nectar also attracts honey eating birds. Flowering occurs in spring but it may not occur annually. The flowers are followed by fruits containing a few hard, black seeds.

Although not commonly cultivated, X.minor is an excellent garden plant which can flower in about 4 years from seed but may take longer. It requires well drained soils in sun or dappled shade. The plant also makes an excellent container specimen.

Seed germinates easily without pretreatment, although growth is slow.

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