Saturday, December 09, 2006

Four Esperance Lechenaultia (fan-flower) species

The genus Lechenaultia is named after a French botanist who accompanied the Baudin expedition to Australia 1800-1804.

Lechenaultia is part of the large flora family of Goodeniaceae. Other better known genera include, Goodenia, Scaevola, Dampiera, etc. As a family of fan-flowers there are hundreds of species occurring throughout Australia, their flowers come in all colors and the plants are usually very common after fire or when there has been soil disturbance. Most are small shrubs, although there are also many non-woody species (herbs); the Esperance region species grow in a variety of habitats, from coastal dunes, to sandy heath and dry mallee.

Most Goodeniaceae species have a distinctively fan shaped flower, although some need close examination to appreciate this feature, the foliage varies greatly from tiny leaves to large fleshy ones, some armed with sharp spines, but normally it is the shape of the flowers and their bright colors that draw the attention.

The four Lechenaultia species from around Esperance come in many colors.

Lechenaultia formosa the so called Red Lechenaultia

Lechenaultia formosa grows in a sandy soil around seasonally wet depressions and flowers best when the soil is moist.
The flowers come in an amazing array of colors. These illustrated are only a few examples.

The "Heath Lechenaultia," Lechenaultia tubiflora does not initially look like a fan-flower, but has all the necessary features to place it well and truly within the genus. This species likes the deep sandy soils, obviously preferring better drained sites, but like Lechenaultia formosa above, has an interesting although less varied range of color variations. Commonly the flowers are either red or a cream/green color as shown below.

But not satisfied with these colors, it produces bicolor ones that combine the two. Either the red or the cream can be at the top, with the other color making up the remainder of the flower. These color forms are at a guesstimate, a third fully red, a third fully Cream/green and the remaining third a bicolor between the two.

Lechenaultia brevifolia does not occur in the Esperance coastal region, but can be found further inland, usually in a sandy soil over a heavier clay base. Here the temperature is warmer than in coastal regions and surface rainfall drying quickly, but the heavier soil under the sand would probably retain moisture for some time. It is usually a very open small shrub, with the flowers resembling Lechenaultia biloba. It was described in 1987, so only a recently recognised species.

This last Lechenaultia also only occurs inland, and usually after fire where it might persist for a few seasons. It is a low shrub and a prolific flowerer, favouring a sandy/clay soil in seasonally (winter) damp depressions, or seepage zones. Its name is Lechenaultia papillata and like the blue flowering species above was first described in 1987.

These plants are often considered difficult to grow in the garden, but given similar conditions to where they normally occur, they are quite hardy. However soil type and moisture availability are critical requirements.


Gaye said...

Hello Jack,

I have pleasant memories of observing Lechenaultia formosa in the Esperance region on my spring 2006 trip.

Although I saw several species of Lechenaultia, including L. formosa, in other parts of WA, it is only the Esperance plants that I found displayed the fiery brilliance of red, yellow and orange on the one blossom.

On close inspection, the red flowers appear to be coated in very fine white hairs which I am presuming give the petals their almost iridescent sheen.

I hope you don't mind me showing off a Lechenaultia formosa bloom that I captured at Esperance:

Esperance Blog said...

Hi Gaye, a most interesting observation of yours regarding the epidermal cells on the Lechenaultia formosa petals. I have dug out an interesting paper on them and include the abstract below. As you will find, they are probably an aid to pollination.

>>The nature of the selective pressures which have resulted in the conical-papillate shape of the cells of the adaxial epidermis of many petals has been a matter for considerable speculation. One suggestion is that this shape focuses light within epidermal cells resulting in an increase in the amount of light absorbed by the floral pigments, intensifying the colour of the petals and possibly enhancing their attractiveness to potential pollinators; another is that conical cells aid pollinator orientation on the flower, either visually or when touched. The recent identification of a mutation at the MIXTA locus of Antirrhinum majus (which blocks the formation of conical petal cells) has allowed us to test this hypothesis. We report the results of field experiments indicating that, where pollinator number limits seed-set, flowers with conical epidermal cells receive more pollinator attention than do those with flat cells. Through the use of double mutants we have examined whether preferences for flowers with conical cells operate through the perception of flavonoid pigments. We have also examined the appearance of flowers with and without conical cells under ultraviolet light to determine whether differences in absorption or reflectance of light at these wavelengths may influence pollinator preference.<<

Beaut fully mature flower there Gaye, I must admit those L. formosa flowers are amazing and I never stop being enraptured by them.

Thanks for highlighting (play on a word there) those cells, most interesting.


Gaye said...

Thanks for the extra information, Jack.

My time-consuming observation of plants is revealing many fascinating details and hidden delights, along with countless questions :)

Logan said...

WOW! the colours in that first photo are just breathtaking.

Only my first visit, just got the link over at the ABC fora. Must rush now, but this certainly looks like a blog I'll visit.

Thanks for the good work.

Esperance Blog said...

Hi Logan, these plants are very special color-wise, as are many others in the family Goodeniaceae. In WA we are very lucky to have such a range of flora, but a little tip for you, pop in next week if to want to be really dazzled by color.


Peter (Not You) said...

Hey there Jackwest,

I just popped over from Scribbly to see what all the fuss has been about and to have a browse - Very impressive.
I particularly liked the pic of the Common Scaly-foot. Reminds me of when I was a kid in South Australia and we used to catch legless lizards to scare our teacher with, the scientific name escapes me at the moment but it was the one that imitates a juvenile brown snake (I gave up doing this after catching one that didn't have ears - whoops!).
I've always been a little envious of people who live in the West for the riot of colour you have with your wild flowers (must come over one day). I have seen quite a few WA plants at the Native Botanic Gardens in Canberra but it's not quite the same as the thrill of discovering them in their natural environment. I did get a Lechenaultia biloba a few years ago and it grew well for a while then suddenly turned up it's toes (Don't think it liked the humidity we have here - Sth coast NSW), from memory it was a cultivar called "White Flash". We do have Scaevola aemula around here, in some places where the ground has been disturbed it is almost a weed. It is the large flowered form, which I believe is a different variety to S. aemula that you have over there.
Well I'll head off now, but I'll come back for another look soon.

Warm regards

P.S. I might even catch up with you over at Scribbly.

Esperance Blog said...

G'day Peter, I spent most of my younger days in the Eastern States, but once I came over here I was hooked. There is such a lot to see and such a huge area in which to see it.

Must admit though, I do miss those beautifully cool fern gullies. I would wander up all the creeks and gullies, seeking out the new and the unusual. Some of my best memories date from then.

Thanks for your comments, hope to see you in Scribbly.


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Flowers Philippines said...

Awesome! I learned a lot here. I never knew about Lechenaultia flower before and actually this is the first time I saw that flower. Anyway, Wish I can see it personally. Thanks for the information.


WA said...

Thanks Flowers Philippines, if you are interested in the colors of these plants I have a post in my Esperance Wildflowers Blog regarding Lechenaultia formosa which contains more photos.