Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lambertia Formosa - The Mountain Devil

Lambertia formosa, commonly known as Mountain Devil, is a shrub of the family Proteaceae endemic to New South Wales, Australia. First described by English botanist James Edward Smith in 1798, its specific name formosa is the Latin adjective for 'handsome'. No subspecies are recognised. It is one of 11 species of the genus Lambertia within the family Proteaceae, and the only one found in eastern Australia as the others are all restricted to southwest Western Australia. Common names include mountain devil and honey flower, the former from the fruit's resemblance to a devil's head.

Lambertia formosa grows as a spreading shrub to 2 m (7 ft) tall, with one or more stems arising from a woody base known as a lignotuber. The new growth is covered with a fine brownish hair. The stiff leaves are arranged in whorls of 3, or sometimes up to 4 to 6, on the stems, and are linear to narrow-oblanceolate in shape. Measuring anywhere from 1 to 8 cm (0.4–3 in) in length and 0.2-0.7 cm wide, they have a pointed tip or apex. Flowers are seen at any time of year, but more often over spring and summer (September to January). The inflorescences are made up of seven smaller individual flowers, known as florets, and can be shades of red or pink in colour. The perianths are 4.5 cm (1.6 in) long, with the styles protruding another 1-1.5 cm (0.5 in) beyond. Flowering is followed by the development of (2 cm - 3 cm x 1 cm - 2 cm) fruit which have two (1 cm - 1.5 cm) sharp horny protuberances, and a 0.5 cm 'beak', initially pale green in colour before fading to a grey-brown.

Endemic to New South Wales, Lambertia formosa is found in on or east of the Great Dividing Range from the vicinity of Braidwood north to Port Stephens, as well as some parts of Northern New South Wales around Grafton and between Red Rock and Yamba. Predominantly found on sandy or rocky soils, it grows in heathland, mallee shrubland and dry sclerophyll forest.

Lambertia formosa regenerates after bushfire by resprouting from its woody lignotuber. Flowering peaks two or three years after a fire. The flowers are pollinated by honeyeaters, which perch as they consume the nectar.

Lambertia formosa is readily grown in a home garden given a sunny position and fair drainage. It is bird attracting.

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