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The Genus Bauera

Alec Blombery

Amongst the plants particularly adaptable to the cool, moist and shady parts of the garden is the genus Bauera. The genus takes its name from the Bauer brothers, two early Austrian botanical painters of whom Ferdinand went with Flinders on his voyage in ihe "Investigator" in 1801. This small genus of three species and one variety has been placed in several families over the years and is now assigned to the family Baueraceae.

The genus has the following characteristics: shrubs with opposite sessile (without a stalk) leaves; each divided into three small leaflets with the appearance of a whorl (arranged in a circle) of six leaves. Flowers are axillary, solitary, up to one inch in diameter, with from four to ten calyx segments and petals and numerous stamens. The fruit is a two-celled capsule containing a number of roundish brown seeds.

Bauera rubioides var. rubioides

   Bauera rubioides
   Bauera rubioides
Click for larger image

("rubioides" = named after the Rubia plant).

This is a scrambling to upright growing, somewhat hairy shrub with tough wiry stems from 0.5 to 1.5 metres long. The pink flowers, with numerous stamens, are carried on slender peduncles (stalks); the light green leaflets, about 20 mm in length, are lanceolate to oblong and usually serrated.

The species extends from Queensland to Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia.

Bauera rubioides var. microphylla

("microphylla" = small leaves).

This low-growing shrub is similar to the species but all parts are much smaller.

Bauera capitata

("capitata" = having heads of flowers).

This small diffuse shrub is very similar to B.rubioides var.microphylla in appearance, with numerous slender woody stems; the small, light, green, narrow leaflets are obtuse in shapo with one lobe or tooth at each side. The flowers are almost sessile and solitary in axils, but several pairs together at the end of the branches form little flower heads.

This species occurs in Queensland and New South Wales.

Bauera sessiliflora

   Bauera sessiliflora
   Bauera sessiliflora
Click for larger image

("sessiliflora" = flowers without stalks).

This is an erect shrub, soft and widely branched from 1.5 to 1.8 metres in height. The leaflets are dark green, entire, lanceolate and rather hairy. Flowers are sessile, axillary and crowded closely on the stems; the petals are pink or violet tinged to magenta in colour, with dark stamens.

The species is confined to the Victorian Grampians, in moist sandy places.

Key to the Species

The descriptions may be summarised by the following key:

(1) Flowers pedicellate
Ovary superior, leaves mostly lanceolate and serrate:

  Similar to above but smaller in all parts: B.rubioides var. microphylla
(2) Flowers sessile
Ovary superior, flowers terminal, leaves narrow and mostly three toothed:

  Ovary half inferior, flowers axillary and crowded closely on stems, stamens dark, leaflets entire: B.sessiliflora

In their natural habitat the species occur in close-growing masses, usually in a south to south-east aspect in moist, cool, shaded to semi-shaded positions, although in some moist situations plants may be found growing in full sunlight. Various common names are given to the species, such as 'River Rose', 'Dog Rose', 'Wire Scrub', 'Rose Heath' and 'Showy Bauera'. The flowers vary in colour from pale pink, through deeper shades to bright magenta.


These species are readily raised from seed or propagated by cuttings.

The small round seeds develop in small capsules and are best collected as the capsules turn brown and begin to open, usually from the end of November onwards, depending upon the flowering time. After drying for about a fortnight, the seeds are best sown when fresh into a box or other container, depending upon one's requirements, using a free sandy bush soil. Cover the seeds to their depth with a similar type of soil and then keep moist in a shady position.

To assist in maintaining moisture, cover with a sheet of glass, polythene or hessian. Germination begins in from three to four weeks when the cover is best removed. Seedlings may be transplanted when the second or third pair of leaves has formed or, if so desired, the plants may be left and transplanTed in the late autumn.

After transplanting, the seedlings should be held for approximately three months or until well established, when they are ready for planting out into the garden.

Propagation by cuttings is readily carried out by using side and leading shoots in October and November or February and March. The cuttings should be from two to three in length with the lower leaves removed. The cutting medium may be of coarse river sand, vermiculite, or separate cuttings may be placed in well-drained, sandy soil. The river sand or vermiculite should be placed in a pot or tin with a layer of coke or other drainage medium at the bottom. The cuttings should be placed from half to two-thirds their length in the cutting medium, which should be kept moist in a shady protected position or in a cutting-frame.

Covering the container with a sheet of glass or standing in a polythene bag with drainage holes at the bottom helps to conserve moisture when no cutting frame is available. Cuttings should not be allowed to dry out at anytime. Individual cuttings in a shaded position in sandy soil covered with a glass jar give good results, but over-watering must be avoided. Cuttings take from two to four months to form roots when they are ready for potting. After potting they should be kept in a shaded position for about three months when they are ready for planting out.


Bearing in mind the habits of the genus, the best position for cultivation is a cool, shaded or early morning sun position, although, provided an ample supply of moisture is always maintained, any situation in the garden is satisfactory. Several plants grouped together give a pleasant effect, particularly with the lower-growing species, B.capitata and B.rubioides var. microphylla. The larger growing species, B.rubioides and B.sessiliflora, make good specimen plants or a pleasant soft hedge for shaded position.

In establishing new plants, it is essential that watering should be carried out regularly. This is most essential, particularly in the drier parts of the garden, and, even with old established plants, watering must not be neglected in dry exposed situations.

The plants tend to keep a compact form but, if desired, light pruning may be carried out immediately after flowering, avoiding cutting old wood during the process.

From Australian Plants, journal of the Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants, December 1963.

The late Alec Blombery was a greatly respected author and expert on Australian native plants. He published many books and articles on cultivation and propagation of Australian plants, many of which remain valuable references in public and private libraries.


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Australian Plants online - September 2003
Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants