Conostylis aculeata

Prickly conostylis

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.

Conostylis aculeata has masses of yellow buds that slowly open to small white flowers from late August to November. I think they are more attractive in the bud stage than when flowering as I have a preference towards yellow flowers.

Overall, Conostylis aculeata is a very attractive ground cover especially as they have a long flowering period and are adaptable and hardy plants.

In the garden

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.

Propagation

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

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

By Jeff Howes