A clumping, perennial herb with rhizomes to 15 cm long, producing clumps of basal leaves.
It has a very widespread distribution, growing from Cairns in Northern Queensland, continuously around the coastal and inland regions of Australia, through NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia with the most northern records around Coral Bay, also extending into Tasmania.
It is common in many habitat types including coastal and inland dry sclerophyll woodlands, forests, grasslands and shrublands, on a range of different soil types – sandy through to clay.
Dianella spp. produce their leaves on a buried condensed rhizome, with some species exhibiting aerial stems with alternate to clustered leaves.
In this species, leaves are basal, to potentially 100 cm long (usually shorter) and 2.5 cm wide, linear to subulate (“strappy”), green to blue-green in colour. The bases of leaves are occluded – a feature where the two halves of the upper side of every leaf are folded lengthwise and seemingly glued together – a useful identification feature for this species (especially when it is not in flower).
Dianella spp. produce flowers on elevated inflorescences, usually above the foliage, which are described as cymose but have a panicle-like appearance. The individual flowers are blue to violet and are arranged in branches on the main axis. Flowers are bisexual with six tepals (three sepals and three petals which are almost identical – a typical lily-characteristic) and a superior ovary.
In this species, flowers are on a raised inflorescence, potentially reaching 2 metres tall (but usually shorter), mid to dark-blue or violet, to 20 mm across with the stamens having yellow filaments and pale brown to black anthers (useful for identification).
Dianella spp. produce berries, usually purple in colour.
In this species, they are up to 10 mm in diameter.
This species can be grown quite reliably and is a worthy plant for the garden, especially if planted in odd numbered clumps.
It is hardy in a range of climates and soil types and does well in shallow and deep soils. Can be planted around rocks.
It is a great gap filler and can provide some dense cover for small reptiles and invertebrates.
Most plants in this genus are fast growing and hardy once establish in well-drained soils, in a sunny or semi shaded position.
After flowering and after the berries are finished, remove flower spikes at the base of the plant and at the same time remove any dead or yellowing leaves.
Use a suitable native fertiliser for better flower displays.
Propagation can be from the ripe seed sown in spring with good success.
A benefit of Dianella, along with many other monocotyledonous plants, is they can be transplanted. This is best done in Autumn and Winter. Plants can be dug up and divided along the rhizomes and replanted. It is best to cut back the foliage by two-thirds if doing this and replant, where desired, quickly. The author has found this is the quickest way to establish a sizeable plant. Keep transplanted plants moist for a few weeks.
Five varieties of D. revoluta are accepted by the Australian Plant Census:
• Dianella revoluta var. divaricata
• Dianella revoluta var. minor
• Dianella revoluta var. revoluta
• Dianella revoluta var. tenuis
• Dianella revoluta var. vinosa
Two of these varieties: var. revoluta and var. vinosa are currently recognised in NSW.
Dianella is a genus of about forty species of monocotyledonous flowering plants (which have been subject to family reclassifications in recent times). They are commonly known as Flax Lillies and are closely related to other native genera such as Thelionema and Herpolirion, as well as, more broadly to Xanthorrhoea and Lomandra.
The genus has much variation and there are likely more species which require formal descriptions.
To view the list of Dianella species accepted by the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families as at October 2020, use this link.
First Nations Peoples Uses: Berries are used for food, when ripe; Seeds are chewed; The berries can also be used to make a blue dye. The leaves can be used for basket making and plaiting into cords
Most Dianella plants will survive fire; regenerating quickly from rhizomes as well as any seedbank.
Dianella – Latin diminutive of Diana – the Roman Goddess of the hunt and wild animals, often associated with woodlands. The first specimen of this genus was collected from the island of Mauritius by French botanist-explorer Philibert Commerson (1727-1773) and was simply labelled “Diana”.
revoluta – Latin for “revolute” – meaning “rolled-back” or “turned-downwards” – possibly referring to the leaf margins that roll downwards and inwards, especially when plants are dry and/or hot.
Not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild.
NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Dianella revoluta profile page
Wikipedia – Dianella revoluta profile page
Australian National Botanic Gardens – Dianella revoluta profile page
Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.