Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - FRONT PAGE - with HE­LEN

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.

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