Conostylis aculeata

Prickly conostylis

Family: Haemodoraceae

A clumping perennial (lily-type monocot), with leaves emerging from a buried rhizome, to 60 cm tall, forming clumps to about 100 cm wide, spreading by runners.

It is endemic to the south-west of Western Australia, growing along western south-coast area and west coast, generally between west of Albany to north of Kalbarri to about 200-300 km inland.

It is typically found on sandy soils, in swampy shrubland and heathland and sand-dune shrubland, often with some moisture.

Conostylis spp. produce simple leaves in a clumping-cluster. In this species, leaves are mid to dark green, linear (strappy) to about 60 cm long by 1 cm wide, with margins having spaced spines.

Conostylis spp. produced 6-merous flowers with 6 tepals (3 petals and sepals which cannot be allocated to either category), with 6 stamens and 3 carpels. In this species, flowers are to about 1 cm across, bright yellow in colour and clustered in umbel-like heads or cymes, to about 3 cm across, on stalks to 45 cm long; typically produced in spring but can flower for much longer.

The fruit is a 3-celled capsule, about 1 cm across.

In the garden

Author’s notes:

Conostylis aculeata is a very adaptable plant and is a great ground cover.

It thrives in my garden in Sydney’s northern suburbs even though it receives only afternoon sun and is growing in light dry soil over a clay base. About ten years ago, I started with a small plant and it is now approaching one metre in diameter. There are about ten subspecies of this plant and I have (fortunately) one of the subspecies that spreads from ‘runners’ (ie a thin stalk about 150 mm long from which new leaves grow).

Maintenance: Conostylis aculeata is a low maintenance plant and deserves a place in every garden. I only prune off the old flower heads after flowering to tidy up the plant and water it in very dry conditions.

Overall, Conostylis aculeata is a very attractive ground cover especially as they have a long flowering period and are adaptable and hardy plants. Best grown in a sunny spot with relaible moisture.


Another interesting feature of the subspecies I am growing is its ease of propagation. For a few weeks, just after flowering, these ‘runners’ produce aerial roots (with green tips) from the leaf axis. If these roots reach the ground they will grow quickly. This is how I produce new plants – I cut off these ‘runners’ above the leaf axis producing new aerial roots, and pot them on into tumblers. There is a catch (as always)! You need to closely monitor the plant as there is only a two or three week period when the plant does this.

Other information

This species likely regenerates from seed aftre fire. It may be able to reshoot from buried rhizomes.

The Conostylis genus is endemic to Western Australia and is found mostly in the south west corner of that state where they generally grow in well drained sandy soil. There are some 45 species and are all perennial, tufted herbs and are closely related to the Kangaroo Paws.

The genus was first formally described by botanist Robert Brown in 1810 in Prodromus Florae Novae Hollandiae.

Conostylis – Greek – Konos (κώνος) – meaning “cone” and styli (στήλη) – meaning “column” – referring to the cone-shaped styles (female stalks) of the flowers.

aculeata – Latin – meaning aculeate – “with prickles or stings” – referring to the prickly leaves.

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

Western Australian Herbarium (1998–). Florabase—the Western Australian Flora.                      Conostylis aculeata profile page https://florabase.dbca.wa.gov.au/browse/profile/1418

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 – Conostylis aculeata profile page – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conostylis_aculeata

Gardening with Angus – Conostylis aculeata profile page https://www.gardeningwithangus.com.au/conostylis-aculeata-prickly-conostylis/

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke