red-cranberry-heath-flower-shown -from-side

Cranberry Heath (Astroloma humifusum)

Although Cranberry Heath is already on the plant species list, I initially misidentified it, and the post is not as specific as it should be.  Here are two photographs taken in June of a small Cranberry Heath plant growing alongside the dam.

The red flowers are tubular, with a star-shaped opening.  The Latin name reflects this shape – Astro = ‘star’ and ‘loma’ = fringe.   This is new information for me, courtesy of  Enid Mayfield’s book Flora of the Otway Plain and Rages 2   and is something that will stay with me.   Mayfield also explains that the second part of the Latin name ‘humifusum’ means ‘covering the ground’ and this is a small but dense ground cover plant which forms a small mat.

Over the past two years I have found about six to ten individual Cranberry Heath plants.  Three of these are near the dam, and a few are in the natural bushland.  I haven’t noticed any growing in the grassed areas.

The flowers on our plants are about 10mm long, but very thin, and according to Mayfield appear between January and June.  I think ours flowered from around April to June, perhaps because we had a hot, dry, Summer and Autumn.  Often the flowers nestle beneath the spiky leaves. Apparently the plant does produce a fruit, but I haven’t noticed any. I suspect the wildlife find them first. This is another plant the Swamp Wallaby seems to enjoy eating.

red-cranberry-heath-flower-shown -from-side
I love the colour of the Cranberry Heath flower, and the way it contrasts perfectly with the grey-green leaves.
Seen from the open end of the flower tube, the reason why botanists called it the Astroloma or ‘star-fringe’ becomes perfectly clear.

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