Plant of the month: Nov. 2016 (2)

Orthrosanthus multiflorus, Kangaroo Is. Photo: D. Armstrong.

As the second Plant of the Month for November 2016, the State Herbarium of South Australia has chosen Orthrosanthus multiflorus Sweet (morning flag). It is a native member of the Iris family (Iridaceae) found in both Parks of the Month, Kelly Hill Conservation Park and Seal Bay Conservation Park.



Plant a flag in your garden!

Morning flag is a hardy tufted perennial that is suitable for cultivation in Adelaide (4.2MB NRM gardening brochure) and elsewhere in temperate S.A., provided frost-prone areas are avoided. For further information see the Botanic Gardens of SA Plant Selector and the State Flora Nursery Catalogue (7.5mb PDF), which happens to feature our Plant of the Month on its front cover!

Within South Australia, morning flag is almost entirely confined to Kangaroo Island, apart from several records on the southern tip of Eyre Peninsula and a questionably native occurrence near Inman Valley on Fleurieu Peninsula. It is the dominant ground cover plant in the Rocky River visitor precinct of Flinders Chase National Park, its tough grass-like leaves being resistant to grazing by kangaroos, wallabies and Cape Barren Geese.

Morning flag at Rocky River, Flinders Chase National Park. Photo: D.N. Kraehenbuehl.

In the South Australian flora, the Iris family (Iridaceae) is dominated by introduced species (currently 52 listed in the Census) and these are largely South African garden escapes. Orthrosanthus multiflorus is one of only three native Iridaceae species found here (the other two being Patersonia species). Have a go at growing it and help redress the imbalance. It would make a wonderful addition to South Australian gardens as an alternative to the many introduced ones!

The delightful illustration below by Edwin Dalton Smith was published with the original description of the species by the English botanist and horticulturalist Robert Sweet in 1827 in his Flora Australasica or a selection of handsome or curious plants native of New Holland and the south sea islands (1827-1828).


Contributed by State Herbarium botanist Peter J. Lang.