Butterfly on Xanthorrhoea

X is for Xanthorrhoea!

Last year I wrote a post about Xanthorrhoea, using my only reference guide at the time to try to determine the species.  A few comments suggested I had incorrectly named the plant as Xanthorrhoea Resinosa when it was more likely to be Xanthorrhoea Minor.  The feedback was probably correct. However, by the time I could check, the flowers were all finished.  With this in mind, I have taken care to photograph a range of Xanthorrhoea  flowers this November.

I’ve been amazed at the difference in size, texture, colour, and shape of the flower spikes.  Along with providing a striking presence in the bushland, they also provide food for wildlife.  I’ve divided my photos into four groups for this post; Plant Size, Flower Spike Colour, Open Flowers, and Flowers as Food, so please scroll down to see the full array of images.

Plant Size:

Over the Spring, many of the Australian wild flowers I have tried to photograph are tiny, so when the Xanthorrhoea flower spikes began to appear, I set out with my camera with  much relish. Finally I would have something substantial to photograph.  Instead of trying to zoom in close enough to a tiny fringe lily, I found I had the opposite problem.  How do I best show this plant when the flowers are so large?  The only way is bit by bit, feature by feature.

As I did this, I realised we had at least two, perhaps three species of Xanthorrhoea. I still don’t know enough to identify them correctly, but these photographs show some of the major size differences.

Flower Spike
This plant is small. The leaves are approximately 20 to 30 cam long, and the flower spike is just over one meter long.
Flower Spikes
In contrast, this plant is quite large with leaves around 90 cm long, and flower spikes well over 2 meters high.
Flower spikes
This plant is somewhere between the two, with leaves around 60 cm long, and flower spikes about one and a half meters long.

Flower Spike Colour:

I’ve also noticed that some of the plants have brown flower spikes while others have green flower spikes:

Green Flower Spike
This spike has a clear green colour, and held this colour right through the flowering period.
Brown Flower Spikes
These flower spikes are clearly brown, and also held the brown colour throughout the flowering period.

Open Flowers:

A selection of Xanthorrhoea flowers shows how truly beautiful they are:

Flower spikes tower above the bracken
Rising high above the bracken and native shrubs, the flower spikes are spectacular and exotic.
Individual flowers on a spike
Many individual star-shaped flowers blossom along the flower spike.
Texture of unopened buds
The round, knobbly buds of the unopened flowers are also fascinating.
Fluffy flower spike
This fully opened flower spike looks fluffy.
Perfumed blooms?
I’m told that some of the Xanthorrhoea flowers have a perfume, but I have not been able to detect this on ours. However, I’m often not very good at detecting perfume.

Flower as Food:

Finally, the Xanthorrhoea flowers seem to provide food for a range of wildlife species:

PPartially nibbled flower spike.
Partially nibbled flower spike.

Nibbled Flower Spikes

Something larger seems to like nibbling these flowers. Perhaps it is a possum, a wallaby or even a smaller marsupial.
Butterfly on Xanthorrhoea
Last year I recall flocks of butterflies around the flower spikes. This year, being cooler, they are few, but just as beautiful.
Xanthorhea Caterpillar
I found that many Xanthorrhoea flower spikes hosted numbers of these unidentified larvae. In a future post I will try to identify the species.
Bee feeding from the flowers.
The rich nectar attracts many insects, in this case a bee.

I hope you found the Xanthorrhoea as fascinating to look at as I did. Write and tell me what you think of this flower.   Even better, if you can help to identify which species we have, I would be extremely grateful.

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