Plant of the Month — December 2008
Nuytsia floribunda (Labill.) G.Don — Christmas Tree
Nuytsia floribunda truly earns its association with Christmas in WA as it flowers so prominently throughout early summertime. A member of the Loranthaceae or mistletoe family, and growing up to 10 m high, its suckering roots prey on the root systems of nearby plants. Nuytsia floribunda prefers to grow in sandy soils associated with underlying granite, laterite and limestone and has a range that extends from Kalbarri in the north to Esperance on the south coast.
The seeds of Nuytsia floribunda are light, dry and winged and float away from the parent tree. Seedlings develop into low, bushy shrubs with numerous stems rising from the base, one of which produces a trunk that carries the flowers. The suckers are edible with a sweet centre, forming part of the bush diet of the Nyoongar people.
The genus Nuytsia was named after Pieter Nuyts (1598–1695), a member of the Council of Dutch Indies and 17th century explorer in south western Australia, and the epithet floribunda derives from the Latin floribundus, profusely flowering.
On a voyage from Holland to the Dutch East Indies in 1627 commanding the “Gulde Zeepaert’ (Golden Sea-horse), the ship was driven off its course and Nuyts accidentally discovered the southern coast of Australia, which to the extent of about 1,000 miles of the coast-line, was subsequently marked in the charts of the Dutch East India Company as “Nuyt’s Land”.
Photo: A. Spooner
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