Blueboy not so colourful or so coloured

After last week's big showy banksia (Banksia serrata), albeit without the gaudy flower colour of its relatives in the west, here is a more subdued member of the family Proteaceae. Stirlingia latifolia grows all over the place in gaudy-flowered south-western Western Australia.

Like the Range where so many beautiful plants grow, including this one, the genus was named after Sir James Stirling, the first Governor of Western Australia. There are six other species and the ones I've seen pictures of have rather narrow leaves, so the species epithet meaning 'broad leaf' is relatively helpful.

Other than Stirling Range, Blueboy, as it has been called, grows mostly within 50 km of the coast, which was where I photographed, just north of Perth.

Apparently that odd common name is a reference to the colour of plaster made from sand extracted from where Stirlingia latifolia grows. Which is rather obscure. The flowers are red or yellow, and the fruits white and hairs, so the common name is not particularly helpful.

Let's have a closer look at those flowers and fruits. The flowers aren't in a large clump like the banksia flowerhead, but you can see each flower is the standard Proteaceae anatomy, with petal-like bits pealed back from the protruding style (the female bit). 

In this genus, unlike many in the family (such as Banksia), the flower is symmetrical. In this close up you might notice the anthers (male bits) on very short stalks looking like little pillows where the petal-like bits fold back. 

After pollination the ovaries swell and you can see the hair tufts appearing here on maturing fruits.

Finally, looking like this.

Stirlingia latifolia is a well-known 'resprouter' after fire, storing most of its valuable starch in woody roots rather than the above-ground stems. So what you see above the ground isn't particularly robust or persistent, particularly in fire-prone areas (i.e. the whole of south-eastern Western Australia).

Most of the woody heathland we visited in September last year was recently burnt, perhaps in the last year or two. Plants are said to flower more in the season after the fire. 

OK, here's a gaudy, and rather pretty, banksia from the west to finish. It is of course Banksia coccinea. The connection is Stirling Range, where it and Blueboy grow, and where this picture was taken last September.

* For the next few weeks I'll be in Spain, leading my second Gardens in Spanish Culture tour for ASA Cultural Tours (and no doubt accumulating some exotic new topics for Talking Plants). Over that time I'll post some stories from the last, and first, ten years of Talking Plants (#fromthearchive).


Love seeing the series of photos from flower to seed. We need more of that on the internet because many people
graduate school without understanding that process, sad to say.

Also, interesting how wonderfully the Latinized name fits this plant, but how terribly the common name fits!
Talking Plants said…
Thanks, and yes I agree with all of that. Best wishes, Tim