The plant family Ericaceae (heaths and heathers) is widespread in many parts of the globe, particularly Europe and South Africa. It contains a number of widely cultivated plants such as Erica, Rhododendron and Pieris.
Like most of Australia’s members of the Ericaceae, Richea belongs to the subfamily Epacridoideae, which was formerly classified as a separate family, the Epacridaceae. Richea consists of 11 species, all but two of which are endemic to Tasmania. The others are R.continentis found in alpine bogs of Victoria and New South Wales, and R.victoriana from montane and subalpine sites in Victoria.
Richea dracophylla is a tall, erect shrub to about 5 metres high but often smaller. It is usually only slightly branched with clusters of leaves towards the ends of the branches. The leaves are are up to about 30 cm long, tapering to a sharp point and, like all richeas, they have “sheathing” bases…ie, the base of the leaf wraps completely around the stem. The white flowers occur on large clusters towards the ends of the branches in spring.
Richeas, generally, are not widely cultivated but R.dracophylla has been cultivated in Tasmania and should be suitable to cool climates. It prefers well composted, moist soils but with reasonable drainage and in a sheltered position. It is an excellent foliage plant for a container or as a cut flower.
Propagation can be carried out from seed which does not require pretreatment. The species may also be propagated from cuttings but the success rate may be low.
Photo: Murray Fagg – Australian National Botanic Gardens