Libertia paniculata

Branching grass-flag

Family: Iridaceae

A clumping leafy (grassy) herbaceous perennial with a branched rhizome, to about 60 cm tall by 20 cm wide.

It is a widespread species in NSW, growing mainly in coastal areas but extending into the central coast-tablelands divide as well as the North Coast hinterland and central western slopes. It extends into south-east Queensland and north-eastern Victoria.

It is found primarily in warm temperate rainforest and wet sclerophyll forests, on enriched soils.

Libertia have simple leaves, produced densely from the rhizome, linear / “strappy in shape. In this species, they are to 60 cm long and 1.2 cm wide, dark green.

Libertia produce iris-type flowers, with 6 tepals (3 petals and 3 sepals – which can be similar or dissimilar but hard to tell which are which), on a flowering stem called a scape. In this species, flowers are white, to about 25 mm across, with 3 tepals larger than the other 3, produced in clusters on separate branches.

The fruit is a capsule, to 8 mm in diameter with 3 furrows; black in colour, releasing dark brown and very small seeds.

In the garden

Author’s notes:

I always have a few Libertia paniculata growing in my garden as they are a great small plant. They grow in most soils but flower best, in a semi shaded position where they do not dry out. In my northern Sydney’s suburbs garden, I position them where I grow my ferns and other plants that do not like too much direct sun. I do not grow (and perhaps I should) the other Australian species — Libertia pulchella which has shorter leaves but longer flower stems

Maintenance: After flowering, I cut the foliage back hard, this encourages fresh new growth and also removes any old flowering stems and seed heads which can make the plant look a bit ‘scrappy’ if left on the plant.


Propagation is relatively easy from seed, which does not require any special pre-treatment, but may be slow to germinate.

Other information

Libertia is a genus of about 12 species, two of which occur in Australia. NSW currently has 2 species.

This species is unlikely to be affected by fire but may be able to reshoot from the rhizome.

Libertia named after Anne-Marie Libert, (1782 to 1865) a Belgian botanist and self-taught mycologist who studied mosses, lichens and their obscure relatives.

paniculata  From Latin panicula, meaning a “tuft” or “panicle” and the suffix –atus, possessing, referring to the much-branched flowering stems of the species.

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

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

Gardening with Angus – Libertia paniculata profile page https://www.gardeningwithangus.com.au/libertia-paniculata-grass-flag/

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

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke.