25 June 2011

Conostylis breviscapa - Haemodoraceae

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Conostylis breviscapa - Haemodoraceae

Haemodoraceae is the family to which the genus Conostylis belongs and shares with Anigozanthos (Kangaroo Paws), Haemodorum (Bloodroots) and others. Plants in Conostylis usually have scattered yellow flowers, but Conostylis breviscapa differs in having tightly bunched creamy white flowers and because of this, has no close relative within this genus and is thought to be a relict from an ancestral linage.

The ornamental Conostylis breviscapa is recorded from Wharton (65 km or 40 miles east of Esperance) to the Ravensthorpe district (200 km or 125 miles west of Esperance) where records state it grows in white sandheaths. Collections made 40 to 50 years ago were from near where I live, yet I have not seen this species despite knowing the area well. The only place I have encountered this plant is 130 km west of Esperance in a disused gravel quarry. So I am not sure what is going on here, whether clearing, disease, lack of bushfires, my poor observation, etc, have apparently caused it to become uncommon.

The handful of plants I observed consisted of round clumps of flat sedge-like foliage from 30-75 cm (1’-2.5’) diameter x 30 cm (1') in height, which were growing on the lower flat sections of old sand/gravel mounds. Nestled amongst the strap-like leaves to 100 cm (4”) high, were tight clusters of (3 cm or over 1” diameter) cream/white flowers that collectively resembled drumsticks.  Flowering is recorded from August to January.