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Australian Plants online

On the Brink - 1

A series on Australian Plants at risk in their natural habitat.

Homoranthus porteri

Homoranthus is a small genus in the myrtle family (Myrtaceae) which also includes much better known genera such as Eucalyptus, Callistemon, Melaleuca and Leptospermum.

Homoranthus porteri   
Homoranthus darwinioides   
Homoranthus porteri (top)
Homoranthus darwinioides
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In the family, Homoranthus is most closely related to Darwinia but the difference between the two, while botanically significant, is slight....so slight, in fact, that even botanists don't always agree on where the various species in the two genera should be placed. As an example, Homoranthus porteri was previously known as Darwinia porteri! And there are probably botanists who will argue that that the species should have been retained within Darwinia. The difference between the two genera is based on Homoranthus having single or multiple awns at the ends of the calyx lobes.

Homoranthus porteri is found in north-eastern Queensland on Cape York in a few locations between Herberton and Cooktown, usually in heath on sandstone soils. Under the ROTAP* coding system it is classified as "2V" meaning that it occurs over a range of less than 100 km and is at risk of disappearing from the wild in 20-50 years if current land use patterns continue. The species is listed as "Vulnerable" under the Australian Government's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and is also listed as "Vulnerable" under the Queensland Government's Nature Conservation Act.

H.porteri is a small shrub to about 1 metre high. The small flowers occur in pairs on short stems hanging from the leaf axils. The flowers are surrounded by red bracts - the red, fringed calyx lobes protrude from beneath the bracts. The species is virtually unknown in cultivation but is likely to prefer light, well drained soils in semi shade or full sun. It is growing well at Mt. Annan Botanic Garden in western Sydney which indicates that it is adaptable to temperate climates.

H.porteri is very similar to H.darwinioides which is slightly better known in cultivation. The main differences are the slightly longer "fringed" awns on H.darwinioides. The latter is found in the central west of New South Wales and is itself at risk in the 20 - 50 year time frame.

* ROTAP: Rare or Threatened Australian Plants (1988). J.D.Briggs and J.H.Leigh, CSIRO Division of Plant Industry (Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service, Special Publication No.14).


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Australian Plants online - March 2002
Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants