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Australian Plants online

On the Brink - 5

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

Darwinia carnea

Darwinia is a genus of about 35 species in the myrtle family (Myrtaceae). All members of the genus are found only in Australia. Within the myrtle family, the closest relatives to Darwinia are Verticordia (feather flowers), Chamelaucium (Geraldton Wax, etc) and Homoranthus.

Darwinia carnea   

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Darwinia carnea is known from only a few locations in south Western Australia near Narrogin, with perhaps fewer than 10 plants surviving in the wild. Grazing and agriculture have brought this species to the verge of extinction. The species is listed in the gazetted rare flora of Western Australia and is specifically protected by legislation. Under the ROTAP* coding system it is classified as "2E" meaning that it occurs over a range of less than 100 km and is at serious risk of disappearing from the wild in one or two decades if current land use patterns continue. The species is listed as 'Endangered' under the Australian Government's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

D.carnea is one of the "bell-flowered" members of the genus and is the only one of this type to occur outside of the Stirling Ranges near Albany on the south coast. Like other members of the group, the 8 (approx) small flowers are enclosed within large bracts which give the bell shape. Thus the "flower" is really a cluster of small flowers enclosed within the "bell".

The species is a small to medium shrub. Leaves are linear and up to 15mm long. The bell-shaped bracts are commonly pale green in colour but may have a reddish tinge. They occur in late spring to early summer on the ends of the branches.

D.carnea is reasonably well known in cultivation despite its rarity in the wild. However it has proved to be a difficult species to maintain for a long period. It requires excellent drainage and would probably benefit from some protection from direct summer sun. There is a hybrid in cultivation which appears to have D.carnea as one parent. This also has large, green bell flowers at the ends of its branches and it has proved to be a much more reliable species in cultivation.

* 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 2003
Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants