06 February 2012

Eremophila labrosa – Emu Bush

Click image to enlarge

Eremophila labrosa – Emu Bush

In Western Australia the large Eremophila genus has now been transferred from Myoporaceae to the Scrophulariaceae family. Eremophila labrosa although widespread between the Hyden and Norseman districts, with another record near Mt Ragged only just gets into the northern Esperance mallee region, where it favours a heavy sand/clay loam in open mallee woodland. The above were growing 2-3 years after a bushfire below Peak Eleanora around 120 km (75 miles) WNW of Esperance.

Like many plants in Scrophulariaceae, this species responds well to bushfires that assist seed germination plus clear any larger vegetation to provide an open, ash fertilised habitat for it to colonise. Eremophila labrosa is commonly around a metre (2’-3’) in height, but in a sheltered position can grow to twice that size. When I first encountered this shrub I initially thought it might be a Lamiaceae (Mint Bush Family), but their different shaped stamens soon corrected that assumption. The reason I think my thoughts went into Lamiaceae was the large lower lip of the flowers, which typifies many in this group, but which I later learnt reflected this species name of E. labrosa (large-lipped).

The foliage is slightly viscid (sticky) and the leaves have a distinctive recurved tip (uncinate). The ridged stem immediately below the leaves are without hairs, but the slight groove between has very small-branched hairs, which is one of this plants distinguishing features. The 2 cm (3/4”) long insect attracting, purple/blue flowers are quite eye-catching and bloom from August to October.

Further reading: Eremophila and Allied Genera by RJ Chinnock.