In The Natural Interest
Spring Purples and Pinks
by Greg Stone
At this time of year it's difficult not to notice the many shades
of purple and pink in the bush and along roadsides, and so this
month we will identify some of the most common of these
wildflowers seen around the district.
Presently creating a 'mist' of pale purple are
Kunzea capitata (Pink Kunzea) and Kunzea
parvifolia (Small-leaved Kunzea). Named after Gustav
Kunze (a German botanist), these shrubs are in the Myrtaceae
family and are therefore related to Eucalypts, Tea Trees,
Paper-barks and Bottlebrushes.
The two Kunzeas found in this
district are both about 1.5m in height, have grey-green foliage
and pink to purple 'pom-pom' flowers at the ends of the branches.
These flowers do not have much in the way of petals, but consist
of many stamens (stalks) with yellows anthers (the bits that hold
the pollen) on the ends.
How can you tell the difference between
these two Kunzeas? A simple way is to check the leaves -
Kunzea capitata has leaves with three veins, whereas the
smaller leaves of Kunzea parvifolia have only one
vein. Of course, you'll have to stop the car to check
There are four different species of
(Native Iris or Purple-flag) in this district, but also
tell them apart once you know what to look for. These small
plants all have in common purple to blue flowers with three large
petals and three yellow stamens. Immediately below each flower is
a spathe - a slightly bulbous, darker green to brown structure up
to about 3cm in length. The flowers usually appear on sunny days
and are quite conspicuous, but are unfortunately also
What's the difference?
Find a Native Iris
and examine it. If there are no pale, silky hairs on the stems,
leaves and spathes, then you have found
(Short Purple Flag). If the leaves of your Native Iris
all emerge from the base of a single flower stem rather than from
a clump at ground level, then you have Patersonia glabrata
(Leafy Purple Flag). If the plant has leaves forming a
tuft or clump, there are hairs on the edges of the leaves, the
flower stems and the spathe, then it is either Patersonia
sericea var. longifolia (Dwarf Purple Flag) or
Patersonia sericea var. sericea Silky Purple-flag). If
all this seems to be a bit complex, take some time to walk
around, examine some Flag Irises and you should find that it's
easier than it appears!
The common Hardenbergia violacea (Purple
Twining-pea) has just about finished flowering, but in
late Winter and early Spring is very conspicuous in open areas as
it creeps around fences, rocks and stumps and spreads out on
roadsides. As the botanical and common names suggest, this wiry,
twining plant has a deep violet-coloured 'pea' flower with a
small yellow centre.
Another wildflower demanding attention at the
moment is Comesperma ericinum (Pink Matchheads or Heath
Milkwort). This small erect shrub has been given its
common name on account of the resemblance of the unopened purple
to pink flower buds to match-heads. Alternating along the stems
are narrow leaves, while the clumps of flowers are located at the
ends. Look closely at the open flowers and you will notice two
cupped 'wings' that look like petals. These are actually sepals
or the outer parts of the flower. The true petals are quite small
and are wrapped around the yellow stamens, which may be seen
poking their anthers above the petals.
There a several Black-eyed Susans
around, but one of the more common is Tetratheca
thymifolia. All are small, shrubby plants with pink to
purple flowers with four petals, eight stamens and a contrasting
dark centre - from which the common name has been derived.
Tetratheca thymifolia is different from almost all other
Tetrathecas in this area in that its leaves are elliptic
(broadest at the middle and narrowing at both ends) and arranged
in whorls of 3 to 5 (emerging at the same level of a stem to form
a ring). The stems and leaves are usually
There are of course many yellow wildflowers out
at present - but that's another story!
C/- P. O. Wingello
Wingello N.S.W. 2579