Plant of the Month — July 2009
Pityrodia axillaris (Endl.) Druce
This low, diffuse shrub with flowers of deep lustrous red to yellowish-scarlet is a joy to view in a cold wheatbelt landscape or through to the high temperatures of December. Pityrodia axillaris belongs to the Lamiaceae family and has a preference for the sandy soils of Yalgoo and northern sections the Avon Wheatbelt, its main populations being found between Pindar and Morawa.
Because of extensive clearing in its favoured habitats Pityrodia axillaris is now classified as ‘Declared Rare Flora - Extant: taxa which have been adequately searched for and are deemed to be in the wild either rare, in danger of extinction, or otherwise in need of special protection’. Plants gazetted in this category are provided special protection under State legislation.
Pityrodia derives from the Greek pityron meaning bran, husk or scale-like, which refers to the leaves, while the species epithet comes from the Latin axilla or armpit; bot. axillary, growing from the axil, the angle between the upper surface of a leaf or leaf-stalk or the stem or branch on which it grows; referring in this case to the flowers.
The plant was first described in 1839 (from material collected by John Septimus Roe) under the genus Dasymalla by the Austrian botanist, numismatist (coin collector) and Sinologist (China expert) Stephan Ladislaus Endlicher (1804-1849), a director and professor of the Botanical Garden of Vienna. In 1917 the species was transferred to Pityrodia by George Claridge Druce (1850-1932), an English botanist, Mayor of Oxford and Fellow of the Royal Society.
Photo: B.A. Fuhrer
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