Leionema lamprophyllum

Shiny Phebalium

Family: Rutaceae

Leionema lamprophyllum is a large shrub, growing to about 2 metres tall by 2 metres wide.

It has a scattered distribution in NSW, growing south from around Kandos, with records around Lithgow, as well as the Broken Back Range near Cessnock; then with some disjunction to the western parts of the ACT, with further scattered patches to the Victorian border to the south and south-west (as far west as around Albury and as far east as south of Eden). It grows through the eastern half of Victoria, also in scattered patches, as far west as Bacchus Marsh-region.

There is one subspecies listed as critically endangered in the wild (see below).

It is known to grow on sandstone ridges and other exposed areas at higher elevations in heathland and shrubland.

Leionema spp. have characteristics matching those of other similar Rutaceae genera (Philotheca, Phebalium, Crowea); i.e., simple and alternate leaves, usually with oil glands.

In this species, leaves are shiny-dark green, elliptic to broad-obovate to circular, with some plants obtrullate (reverse-diamond shape), to about 10 mm long and 4 mm wide, smooth and glossy above, with margins entire to crenate or dentate.

Leionema spp. have 5-merous flowers; i.e. 5 sepals, 5 petals and usually 10 stamens surrounding 5 carpels, with an overall attractive star-shaped appearance. Flowers can be produced in leaf axils or branch terminals, in cymose clusters or solitary.
In this species, small white flowers, to about 8 mm across, are produced singularly in the leaf axils, white with pink tips on outside. Flowers are produced in winter to spring.

The fruit of Leionema is a schizocarp-capsule – which splits into equal segments on maturity which each segment called a coccus (plural cocci).

In this species, the capsule is approximately 4 mm long.

In the garden

A hardy plant that performs well in cultivation and grows well in a wide range of conditions. The author has grown it in dappled shade successfully.

It has low fertiliser requirements and forms a  great screen or background plant that can be readily pruned to any shape.

It prefers well drained, slightly acid soils with some protection from full sun, but not heavy shade. Grows without additional watering except in dry conditions.

It deserves a place in every garden and the flowers attract bees and insects. It has no known problems.


From cuttings.

Other information

Four subspecies are recognised in total:

  • subsp. lamprophyllum – occurring only in the sub-alpine regions of Victoria and just into southern NSW. It has longer leaves on average and longer flower-pedicels.
  • subsp. orbiculare – occurring in the Kandos-Lithgow area of NSW with shorter rounded leaves.
  • subsp. obovatum – occurring on the southern tablelands of NSW and just into Victoria with obovate leaves of a length in between the above two taxa and with crenate margins in the upper half
  • subsp. fractum – a critically endangered taxon, recently discovered in the Broken Back Range area near Cessnock in NSW. There is also reportedly an old record from Munghorn Gap near Mudgee. It has diamond-shaped leaves with crenate to dentate margins with yellow to yellow-green flower buds.

Leionema are a genus of 28 known species, 27 of which are endemic to Australia, with 1 species endemic to New Zealand. NSW currently has 15 species.

These species have been previously classified in the genus Eriostemon and PhebaliumLeionema differs by not having anthers with an apical point or gland, as well as free sepals on the flowers and small bracteoles on the middle to upper part of flower stalks (pedicels).

Most Leionema spp. would likely die in a fire and regenerate from seed. Some basal regrowth or stem-reshooting may be possible. This species is known to regenerate in substantial numbers from seed after fire.

Leionema – from Greek leios (λείος), meaning smooth”, and nema (nήμα), a thread, referring to a ‘hilar strand’; a small piece of tissue joining the hilum (a scar on the side of the seed) to the ovule.

lamprophyllum – from Greek lamperos (λαμπερός) meaning “shiny”, “glowing”, or “bright” and –phyllo (φύλλο) – a leaf – referring to the glossy-shiny nature of leaves.

The species as a whole is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild. This subspecies fractum is listed as critically endangered in the wild, only known from two locations.

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

Atlas of Living Australia – Leionema lamprophyllum profile page https://bie.ala.org.au/species/https://id.biodiversity.org.au/taxon/apni/51294042

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke