26 June 2012

Daviesia campephylla – Caterpillar-leaf Daviesia

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Daviesia campephylla – Caterpillar-leaf Daviesia

This unusual Daviesia is only known from within 35 km (20 miles) north and northwest of Cascades (wheat silos and school location, servicing local farming community 100 km or 60 miles NW of Esperance), where mostly restricted to small scattered roadside populations. It prefers the heavier sand/clay loams over limestone or gravel, which is also good mallee wheat growing soil and so much has been allocated for farming activities thereby reducing the population and distribution of this plant, although currently it is not endangered.

Daviesia campephylla is a low spreading shrub to 60 cm x 2 metres (2’x 6’) with clusters of yellow flowers with red markings. However it is the foliage that is highly distinctive and as its botanical name (campephylla) suggests, has caterpillar-like leaves. They are likened to looper caterpillars that often remain rigid and motionless on branchlets at an angle of 45 degrees (as do these fleshy leaves); this crowded leaf arrangement also give the branches a structural chunky appearance. They are also characterised by the interesting asymmetrical pungent point, which can be variously positioned with some even down the side of the leaf, well away from the apex.

Due to the unique foliage and interesting structure, this species is quite distinctive and unlikely to be confused with other Daviesia species. From my observations, flowering occurs during October and November and depending on weather conditions, in some years probably extends into September and/or December.