Flax Lily

Dianella – the Flax-lily

I’ve seen the Flax-lily featured in some of the field guides I have on my bookshelves, and as the photographs were so striking, I’ve been watching for them since we moved in. Finally, I have found one!  In my imagination, they were large-flowered beauties, growing from a central stem, but nothing could be further from the truth.  This is probably another flower that I walked past many times last year, without even noticing it was there.

Last week, while searching for orchids, I was paying attention to tiny specks of colour.  I noticed some pale blue petals, about one meter off the ground: tiny blue and green flowers on twiggy stems.  Photographing these, I took the camera back into the house and loaded the images onto the computer.  It was only then I saw I had photographed the underside of the flowers. They hung down, with the face of the flower pointing to the ground.  Out I went again, camera in hand, to photograph the flower. It says something of the small size that it took me five minutes to find the plant again, despite knowing where to look.

Field guides indicate that a number of species of Flax-lily grow in our region.  From the descriptions and the images shown, I think ours is either Dianella admixta (depending on the field guide, this is referred to as the Maroon-Anther Flax-lily, Black Anther Flax-lily Flax-lily or Spreading Flax-lily) or  Dianella brevicaulis (Small-flower Flax-lily or Short-stemmed Flax-lily).

After the flowers finish, the plant produces blue berries.

Despite being small in size, the Flax-lily flowers are extremely beautiful if you take the time to look at them closely. As you can see from the photographs below, we have quite a few unopened buds, so I hope to see them in flower for at least a few weeks – if I can find them!!

Flax Lily
This flower is approximately 10 mm wide in its open form. One of the identifying features is the dark colour of the anthers. Other species of Flax-lily have yellow anthers. Only a couple have dark coloured anthers.
Flax lily underside
The underside of the Flax-lily flower is less spectacular, but has a quiet beauty all of its own.


3 thoughts on “Dianella – the Flax-lily

  1. The name is derived from Diana goddess of the hunt and ella: meaning ‘small’ LOL no wonder you had trouble finding it…you had to ‘hunt’ for it because it was ‘small’ !
    I wonder if the first botanist to identify it had the same trouble hence the name 🙂

    1. I don’t know, Cat, but it’s a great theory! Thanks for bringing a smile as well as the etymology of the name. It’s fascinating when you start breaking down the names of plants. Lisa

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