11 July 2009

Calothamnus gracilis - Myrtaceae

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Calothamnus gracilis - Myrtaceae

This Calothamnus species is usually less than a metre (3') in height, although it can grow to around 1.5 metres (5'). It is very common and widespread with a preference for sand and/or gravel soils in heathland environments, where it will grow from low-lying habitats (not swampy) to the tops of deep sand hills.

The upright foliage is not particularly prickly and as branches are usually brushed aside when walking past, the pointed leaves are seldom encountered. Even when they are, being long and slender they easily give-way, so skin penetration seldom happens. The dark red flowers attract honeyeating birds and provide nectar over long periods, which with good rainfall can be year round. This species is quite strange in the way it flowers, I have seen odd shrubs in full bloom, whilst neighbouring ones are not even setting buds. Others will flower off and on throughout the year and some have only a single grand fling. Moisture availability obviously plays a part in this, which is illustrated when during long dry summers, blossom is rarely produced.

Calothamnus gracilis is quite distinctive in size, foliage and habitat preference, but to confirm identity, the flower parts (petals, stamens and calyx-lobes) are in sets of five, plus the calyx base is embedded into the branch.