Plant of the Month — July 2007
Otion simplicifolium (F.Muell. & Tate) Crisp & P.H.Weston ms
Otion simplicifolium ms is a tomentose or hairy shrub ranging in size from 0.2–1.5m. The density of hairs on the leaves gives the plant a silvery-grey appearance that contrasts well with the deep orange, brown, red and yellow of the pea-shaped flowers. Its range extends from well east of Kalgoorlie in the south, through the Sandy and Gibson Deserts east of Broome and almost to the border with the Northern Territory. There is a coastal population close to Eighty Mile Beach, south of Broome. Soil and habitat preferences for this plant include red sand in grassland or pindan vegetation and the yellow sands of sand dunes and sand plains.
Previously known as Gompholobium simplicifolium, this species is now considered part of the newly-circumscribed genus, Otion, recognised using advanced molecular techniques.
The generic name is derived from the Greek otio meaning ‘little ear’, a reference to two small, ear-like appendages below the base of the flower. The species epithet comes from the Latin simplici or plain and simple: that description being applied to the leaves.
July is a perfect time of year to be in the north of Western Australia, so look for this small bush with its ‘ears’, its dramatic flowers and silvery leaves and give thought not only to its beauty, but to the exciting changes occurring in our understanding of the plant world, through the use of new techniques.
Photo: C.P. Campbell
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