Plant of the Month: Mar. 2017

Cryptandra tomentosa. Photo: C. Lindoff, CC-BY 2.5 AU (

The State Herbarium of South Australia has chosen Cryptandra tomentosa Lindl. as Plant of the Month. It is widespread in south-eastern Australia and also occurs in DEWNR’s Park of the Month for March 2017, Anstey Hill Recreation Park. The Park includes the site of the former Newman’s Nursery, which featured in an article by Taplin & Symon, published in the Journal of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens (21.3mb PDF).

Cryptandra tomentosa was named by British botanist John Lindley from plant material collected by exporer Thomas Mitchell in the Grampians, Victoria. From the account of Mitchell’s journey, it is clear that the collections were made on 15 July 1836, when the expedition party was on Mt Willam. The new species was described to be “remarkable on account of its downy leaves”.

Typical Cryptandra tomentosa plants are small shrubs, with inconspicuous white flowers clustered towards the end of the branches; the flowers tend to turn reddish or pinkish when older. Leaves are narrow and up to 5 mm long, rarely longer, the margins are usually tightly rolled so that only the midrib is visible on the lower surface. The upper surface of the leaves is glabrous and smooth, however, not “downy” as described by Mitchell. What is hairy in C. tomentosa are the stems, especially young ones, and the lower surface of the leaves, which is usually obscured. Some early botanists believed the red- and white-flowered forms were different and described them as separate species, e.g. C. erubescens F.Muell. was published as a name for a red-flowered specimen of C. tomentosa.

Typical Cryptandra flower. Modified from K.R.Thiele, J. Adelaide Bot. Gard. 21: 64, Tab. 1 (2007).

Flowers in the plant family Rhamnaceae are quite unique in that the petals are placed opposite the stames (obhaplostemonous) and “hooding” the anthers, whereas in “standard” angiosperm flowers, the stamens are opposite the sepals. Sepals in Rhamnaceae are colourful and are the most conspicuous parts of the flower; the typical condition for angiosperms is that the sepals are green and smaller than the petals. Most Rhamnaceae flowers also have a conspicuous nectar-secreting disk that covers or surrounds the ovary. In the genus Cryptandra, all flowers are also surrounded by numerous brown bracts.

C. tomentosa, older flowers turning red. Photo C. Clarke, CC-BY 2.5 AU (

The name C. tomentosa was applied wrongly to many plants in south-eastern Australia, even Western Australia. The taxa related and similar to C. tomentosa and C. amara Sm. are currently being revised by State Herbarium botanist Jürgen Kellermann and his colleague Frank Udovicic from the National Herbarium of Victoria. Some taxa that had been named in the past as C. tomentosa are now known as Cryptandra sp. Floriferous, Cryptandra sp. Hiltaba, Cryptandra campanulata Schltdl., C. nutans Steud. and C. myriantha Diels (interestingly, the only species of Cryptandra to occur on both sides of the Nullarbor).

Herbarium access during WOMAD & Clipsal 500

From 10-13 March 2017 the 25th WOMAD Festival will be held in Botanic Park. During this time access to the State Herbarium of South Australia by car will be difficult for volunteers, Hon. Associates and staff, and parking will be quite restricted. Note that Plane Tree Drive and Botanic Drive will be closed to the public a few days before and after the Festival, from 6 to 16 March.

Detailed explanations of the parking arrangements from can be found here (440kb PDF). Please consider using public transport during this time, or visit us by foot or on your bicycle. The Botanic Gardens are open from 7:15am–6:30pm.

The Clipsal 500 motor sport event will take place in a few days, from 2 to 5 March 2017.  Some roads are already closed and car parks in the surrounding area, including the Botanic Gardens, are filling up — especially since the Adelaide Fringe Festival is also happening at the same time.

State Herbarium open days 2017

As in previous years, the State Herbarium of South Australia will be open to the public as part of South Australia’s History Festival, this year on the weekend of 27 & 28 May 2017. The heritage-listed 1909 Tram Barn A was once part of a complex housing the Adelaide tram fleet. Now the State Herbarium, it houses over one million plant specimens instead. See some of the first plants collected in the state on Matthew Flinders’ voyage and learn how all these dried specimens are critical to the effective preservation of living plants.

Read more about Tram Barn A (pdf) and the over one million plant specimens (pdf) in booklets published by the institution.

Guided walking tours will be available on both 27 & 28 May at 11am & 1pm (duration 45–60 minutes, maximum 15 persons per tour).

Bookings are essential — via Eventbrite

Please subscribe to the State Herbarium’s blog to find out more about its activites, events and publications.

Roses and chocolates

Alyogyne hakeifolia (Desert Rose)

We have a botanical theme for celebrating Valentines Day this year in Adelaide which includes extended opening hours for both the Botanic Gardens in Adelaide and Mount Lofty, open until 8 pm. There are also a range of special events including ‘Love Notes’ and pop-ups around the gardens for romantic trysts in Adelaide.

Arthropodium strictum (Chocolate Lily)

The State Herbarium is geeking out by selecting two native South Australian plants to celebrate Valentine’s Day — Alyogyne hakeifolia (Giord.) Alef. and Arthropodium strictum R.Br. Common names of these two species include Desert Rose and Chocolate Lily. The Australian endemic Alyogyne is closely related to the rose mallows (Hibiscus) and the flowers of Arthropodium gets its common name from having a scent reminiscent of chocolate or vanilla. We have photographed a couple of our herbarium specimens to share these plants with you.

Happy Valentines Day!

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Christmas greetings

The State Herbarium of South Australia wishes all followers of the blog, its  volunteers, staff, Hon. Research Associates and Research Affiliates a very happy Christmas break and all the best for the New Year. We hope to see you all again in 2017!

Please note that the State Herbarium will be closed during the holiday period from 23 Dec. 2016 to 2 Jan. 2017.

Last week, we celebrated our traditional volunteers’ End-of-year-thank-you party.  Everyone had a nice time and enjoyed the good food.  During the last year, Herbarium volunteers and Hon. Associates donated over 12,843  hours of their valuable time, which is equivalent to 8 full-time staff members.