Plant of the Month — February 2012
Eremophila alternifolia R.Br. — Poverty Bush
Eremophila alternifolia or ‘Poverty Bush’ is an erect, open shrub growing in height from 0.5m to 4m. Its flowers are profuse and cover the bush in shades of white, cream, yellow, red, pink or purple from June to March. Eremophila alternifolia has a wide distribution in Western Australia through the arid zones, from Cue and Wiluna in the west, south to Esperance and east to Eucla. It has a variety of habitats including woodlands and hills and shows a preference for red or stony soils. The name ‘Poverty Bush’ is applied to many Eremophila species and refers to their ability to survive in very dry, inhospitable environments.
The Aboriginal name for this plant is ‘Tarrtjan’, meaning Goldfields, an area which comprises a large part of its range. Medicinal uses include a mixture made for colds and sore throats (but used in small quantities), while an infusion of the leaves encourages deep sleep and pleasant dreams. Bark from young twigs, along with dry leaves and flowers can be rubbed onto the skin to relieve skin disorders.
Many species of Eremophila are available from local nurseries, and as they belong to a drought-tolerant, bird-attracting genus, at least one species of the wide range available would be ideal as an inclusion for almost any garden.
Photo: A.P. Brown
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