Burchardia umbellata


Family: Colchicaceae

A herbaceous lily-like perennial (monocot), growing to about 70 cm tall. 

It has a very wide and interesting geographic range, occurring in NSW along most of the coast, extending inwards as far as the Dubbo-region, the ACT and Albury. It occurs though most of Victoria with the exception of the north-west; continuing into the Adelaide and Port-Lincoln areas, as well as Kangaroo Island in South Australia. It extends along the coast into Queensland as far as Fraser Island. It occurs in the north-east regions of Tasmania as well as the Bass Strait Islands. Then, there is a massive disjunction to the south and west coast of Western Australia, where it grows from around Albany, around the coast to just north of Geraldton. 

It grows in a wide range of habitats, dry sclerophyll forests and woodlands to coastal heaths and shrublands. 

Burchadia spp. have simple linear leaves, typical of many leafy-monocots. In this species, leaves are narrow and up to 60 cm long by up to 0.4 cm wide, typically dark green.  

At the base of the leaves are carrot-like tubers, about 5 mm thick. 

Burchadia spp. have flowers with 6 tepals (3 petals and 3 sepals which cannot be differentiated); star-shaped / stellate. These are produced on scapes (flowering stalks). In this species, flowers are produced at the terminal of the scape in a cymose to umbel-like cluster, to 70 cm high, white or pale pink in colour with reddish centers; each flower about 2.5 cm wide. It typically flowers from September until November. Plants can then die down in winter. 

The fruit is a capsule, about 15 mm long. 

In the garden

Burchardia umbellata is a plant that generates a lot of interest with native plant enthusiasts. It can be cultivated. However, it is rarely available in nurseries.

It is attractive in flower and would lend to cottage gardens and as a nice gap-filler in the groundlayer. It requires plenty of water in moist, well-drained soils and sun or light shade. It is also suitable as a container plant.

Seed or propagation stock may be hard to source but check with local nurseries or online.


From fresh seed.

Seed is available from late November until early February. The capsule needs to be monitored closely as mature seeds shed within 3-14 days.

Other information

It is reported that First Nations people ate the potato-like tubers of this plant which are high in startch. The tubers were eaten raw or cooked and are white, fleshy, crisp, and starchy, with a nondescript flavour.

Burchardia is a genus of 6 species of perennial herbs, endemic to Australia. Five of the species are endemic to Western Australia. NSW has this one sole species.

Burchadia can likely regenerate from the seedbank after fire as well as possibly from buried tubers.

Burchardianamed for German botanist Johann Heinrich Burckhardt (1676-1738), also a doctor and a student of plant properties. 

umbellataLatin meaning “umbrella” or “parasol”, referring to the umbel-like inflorescence of the flowers.

This plant is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild. 

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.

Wikipedia – Burchardia umbellata profile page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burchardia_umbellata

Greening Australia – Burchardia umbellata profile page          https://www.greeningaustralia.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/FACT-SHEET_Burchardia-umbellata.pdf

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Burchardia umbellata profile page  https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Burchardia~umbellata 

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke