Ovens & Murray Advertiser - North East Regional Extra
MEMBERS of the Rutaceae plant family are well known in cultivation.
All bear five-petalled, starshaped flowers and the foliage, fruits and flowers are aromatic.
Economically important and readily recognisable are citrus e.g. oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit.
Of note, and becoming more well-known, is the Australian finger lime (Citrus australasica).
Economically important for the cut flower industry is Brown Boronia (Boronia megastigma) which bears citrusy perfumed brown and gold blossoms in spring.
Other Australian Rutaceae include correa, crowea, eriostemon and philotheca.
Until recently, members of the philotheca genus were grouped within the eriostemon genus.
A well-known member is Bendigo Wax (formerly Eriostemon verrucosa) and now re-named Philotheca verrucosa.
A strikingly beautiful, lesserknown member of this family is Philotheca spicata.
This occurs naturally in the south-west of WA in a broad sweep from Eneabba to Albany.
It is not endangered in the wild. Philotheca is from the Greek words psilos, meaning naked or bald, and thece, meaning covering or box.
Spicata is from the Latin word spica, meaning point or flower-spike.
The common name for P. spicata is Pepper and Salt, but the origin of this name is unclear.
The dark green foliage is lightly citrusy aromatic when crushed.
Dainty pinkish-mauve flowers are borne in generous racemes from July to October.
Stems of cut flowers are longlasting.
This is also a useful way to prune the shrub to shape if required.
This lovely plant is smaller growing than the more commonly grown philothecas.
It is suitable as a garden specimen, or in a rockery, hanging basket or pot.
Plants thrive in full sun or part shade in well-drained sandy or loamy soil and are relatively slowgrowing, reaching about 70cm x 70cm in four to five years.
Cuttings strike well from firm young growth which should be taken in the warmer months.
Plants are available from specialist Australian plants nurseries and it is well worth the effort to source a plant for your springflowering garden.