Plant of the Month — August 2010
Swainsona formosa (G.Don) Joy Thomps.
Swainsona formosa is a very colourful prostrate annual or short-lived perennial herb growing in clumps up to 3m in width. The best-known flower form is crimson with a black ‘eye’ or ‘boss’. However, colours range from coral, through pink to an albino form, none of these having the very distinctive black ‘eye’.
Swainsona formosa is a member of the Fabaceae (subfamily Papilionoideae) with a habitat range extending in a wide, south-easterly swathe throughout arid Western Australia from the Pilbara in the north and into South Australia. It is also well known in that state for which it serves as the floral emblem. Swainsona formosa prefers an environment of red, sandy or loamy soils, creeklines and stony hills.
Well known in cultivation, this vibrant small plant can be enjoyed by home gardeners almost anywhere and presents well in pots and hanging baskets. It is available from nurseries, either as tube stock or in seed form. The hard seed needs to be either scarified or soaked in boiling water before planting.
Photo: C.A. Gardner
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