Christmas flowers

As Christmas approaches, the orange flowers of Nuytsia floribunda are a brilliant sight throughout Perth and the southwest. They’re called Christmas trees for the timing of their flowering, and are so much better than the fir Christmas tree people decorate. Nuytsia decorate themselves in a golden Christmas glow.

Nuytsia floribunda

Nuytsia floribunda are semi-parasitic. Their roots encircle another plant’s roots and these haustoria produce a gall-like growth [1] to harvest water from the other plant. [2] Nuytsia often grow near a tree they parasitize, but they can survive by parasitizing any plant, including grasses, or trees up to 150m away [3].

Nuytsia floribunda at Star Swamp

Scientific name Nuytsia floribunda

Common name Christmas tree

silver foliage

Flower October – December

Nuytsia floribunda flower

In bud

in bud

Seed dry with three wings for wind dispersal [4] Photo of seeds. In my photo (below) the seeds have blown away.

empty seed pods

Associated wildlife birds and insects feed on the pollen and nectar. eg. wattlebirds, honeyeaters, spinebills, bees, wasps, ants and the spotted jezebel butterfly (Delias aganippe). Rainbow bee-eaters (Merops ornatus) summer in Perth to breed and predate these insects on the wing. [4]

Bark rough, grey-brown

bark

The trunk is not true wood, but starchy tissue. [4]

Nuytsia floribunda

Growth habit tree up to 10m, unlike others in the mistletoe family (Loranthaceae) which parasitize tree branches. [4]

Cultivation easily grown from seed, but may not mature and flower for 15 years. Plants don’t need a host to parasitize as long as they get enough water. [5]

Nuytsia floribunda in cultivation

Also reproduces by suckering, new plants sprout from a network of underground stems. A stand of Nuytsia may all be clones of the oldest plant. [4]

Nuytsia floribunda growing in the Freeway Reserve

Some places in Perth where you can see the beautiful flowers in the next few weeks are:

In the above photo the Freeway is on the other side of the wall. A bike path runs along this wall and you can take photos of the flowers from there, south of Karnup Road. The same trees in full flower (below) eight years ago during construction of the road.

Nuytsia floribunda

During construction the view east across the future road.

Nuytsia floribunda

Florabase record http://florabase.com/browse/profile/2401

References

  1. Watson, Leslie (2016) “Loranthaceae” WA Herbarium.
  2. Calladine & Pate (2000) “Haustorial Structure and Functioning of the Root Hemiparastic Tree Nuytsia floribunda(Labill.) R.Br. and Water Relationships with its Hosts” Annals of Botany vol.85, no.6, p.723-731.
  3. Barrett & Tay (2005) Perth Plants. Perth: BGPA.
  4. Powell, Robert (2009) Leaf and Branch: Trees and Tall Shrubs of Perth. 2nd ed. DEC: Perth.
  5. Croxford, Ben (2016) Personal Communication.

=^.^=

Nuytsia floribunda at Star Swamp

3 thoughts on “Christmas flowers

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