THE genus Phebalium consists of 25 species, all but one being endemic to Australia with the majority occurring in the eastern half of the continent.
Most are small shrubs with very aromatic foliage and producing clusters of small, star-like flowers ranging from cream to bright yellow in Spring.
Phebalium are classified in the family Rutaceae.
Other better-known members of this plant family include boronia, eriostemon, philotheca, citrus [grapefruit, orange, lemon] and a new genus, leionema.
All have five-petalled star-shaped flowers.
Phebalium species are locally common.
The Alpine Phebalium [P. squamulosum] flowers in early December in woodlands and rocky areas below the tree line such as on Mt Buffalo and the Bogong High Plains. There’s a spectacular stand beside the road to the Lake Catani camp site.
P. glandulosum [Desert Phebalium] can be occasionally found in desert areas of inland eastern Australia. It is classified as ‘endangered’ in Victoria.
Most species are not available in retail nurseries, with the exception of P. squamulosum. Members of the Wangaratta Australian Plants Society grow lesser-known species by sharing of cutting material on propagation days.
All are neat shrubs. They are tough and long-lived, reaching between 1 m and 1½ m x 1 m after five years or so. They are happy in half shade or full sun.
A closely related species is Leionema “Green Screen” [ L. elatus X L. lamprophyllum]. It is ideal for a midsized hedge or single specimen. It copes well with shade, frost heat and dryness. It is fast-growing. It bears clusters of white starry flowers in Spring, and the foliage is pleasantly aromatic. All Phebalium and Leionema flowers are butterfly-attracting.
Phebalium and Leionema do not have common names.
Like many of our great Aussie plants, these genera, like “geranium”, “daphne” and “nasturtium” retain Latin names.
But don’t let this put you off from planting one or more in your garden. You will be delighted with prolific clusters of dainty lemon or golden flower heads every Spring.
◆ BRIGHT: Phebalium stenophyllum.