Plant of the Month — October 2008
Amyema preissii (Miq.) Tiegh. — Wireleaf Mistletoe
October’s Plant of the Month is one with a difference — an aerial shrub, hemiparasitic on stems, a mistletoe belonging to the Loranthaceae family. Its flowers of red/orange can be seen over most of Western Australia from January to December, exceptions being the lower South-west and the northern Kimberley; it occurs in all mainland states.
Amyema preissii is usually found growing on Acacia species but occasionally on other hosts. Its adaptation to and preference for living on acacias makes this an oppportunistic species capable of a very wide distribution and variety of environments. The white or pink fruit is an Aboriginal food.
The genus name Amyema is derived from the Greek a- ‘a negative prefix’ plus myeo ‘to instruct’ because the full description of the genus had not been published when the name was first used. This species was named in honour of, and possibly collected by, the German botanist Johann August Ludwig Preiss (1811–83) who collected in WA from 1839–41 upward of 2,700 plant species. The collection was described in Plantae Preissianae (1844–47) as edited by J.G.C. Lehmann. Originally named Loranthus preissii, this species was reclassified into Amyema by Phillipe van Tieghem in the Bulletin de la Societé Botanique du France in 1895.
Engler (1894) listed ten genera for the Loranthaceae, but the number of genera now accepted varies from 50 to 70, depending on the treatment. Hundreds of species which were originally described in the genus Loranthus have now been assigned to other genera. Van Tieghem, the master generic architect of the Loranthaceae and the Viscaceae, created more than 110 genera between 1894 and 1902. About 25 of his genera are still generally accepted, including the well-known Korthalsella and Amyema.
Photo: G. Byrne
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