Plant of the Month — January 2009

Actinotus leucocephalus Benth. — Flannel Flower

Find out more about Actinotus leucocephalus Benth.

This small, erect, hairy white herb is an annual belonging to the family Apiaceae and grows to 1 metre. Flowers of white to cream begin to appear in September and continue through to February, providing a contrast firstly with the vivid colours of spring and then a splash of cool in the intense heat of January and February. The inflorescence is actually many flowers in a simple cluster contracted into a dense head, while what appear to be petals are woolly bracts. Actinotus leucocephalus enjoys a variety of soils and has a distribution from Yalgoo, and just inland from the coast to north of Albany on the south coast.

The genus name of Actinotus is derived from the Greek, actino - rayed, star-like, radiating from a centre, while the species name, also derived from the Greek, means leuco - white and cephalus - headed.

In 1837 the species was described by George Bentham (1800–1884). A British botanist, his classification of seed plants (Spermatophyta), based on an exhaustive study of all known species, served as a foundation for modern systems of vascular plant taxonomy. After he donated his herbarium of more than 100,000 specimens to the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, Surrey, in 1854, the director of the Gardens, Sir William Hooker invited him to establish permanent quarters at Kew. There, Bentham participated in the Gardens’ definitive survey of floras of the British colonies and possessions during which time he produced the ‘Flora Australiensis’ in 7 volumes from 1863 to 1878), cataloging and describing more than 7,000 species in all.

Photo: A. Ireland

Find out more about Actinotus leucocephalus Benth.

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