The Kangaroo Paws comprise a small group of 11 species in the genus Anigozanthos and a single species in the genus Macropidia. They are perennial herbs consisting of strap-like leaves arising from underground rhizomes. Flowers occur in clusters on stalks which emerge from the bases of the leaves. A number of species die back to the rhizome in summer, regenerating in autumn. All species are restricted in distribution to the southern areas of Western Australia.
Anigozanthos flavidus is the most widely cultivated member of the Kangaroo Paws as it has proven to be hardy in many climatic zones, even those with humid summers which often do not suit plants from the west. It is a vigorous plant with perennial leaves reaching 300-450mm in height and can spread to a large clump over 1 metre in diameter. The flowers occur on tall, branched stems which can reach 2 metres. Flowering occurs in late spring to mid summer.
In comparison with other Kangaroo Paws, A.flavidus is probably the least attractive species. The typical colour of the flowers is a pale greenish-yellow which is not particularly appealing. However, the combination of hardiness and bird attraction have made the plant popular in cultivation. In addition, more attractive colour forms in reds, oranges and pinks have become available in recent years and these should ensure its continued popularity.
The plant is adaptable to a variety of garden soils, including poorly drained areas. For best flowering it should be located in a sunny position and be well watered. Annual fertilising after flowering using a general purpose fertiliser may be beneficial.
Because of the vigour of A.flavidus, it has been the basis of a considerable amount of hybridisation work involving the other, more colourful species (which have proven difficult to maintain in cultivation). Many of these hybrids have been released to the market over the past decade and more developments can be expected in the future.
A.flavidus can be grown from seed without any pretreatment. The species can also be propagated by division of the clump, usually after flowering. This is the best way to propagate desirable colour forms. Hybrid Kangaroo Paws are propagated commercially by tissue culture.
Further Reading: Hopper, S (1993): “Kangaroo Paws and Catspaws – A Natural History and Field Guide“, Department of Conservation and Land Management, Western Australia.
A red form of Anigozanthos flavidus
Photo: Brian Walters