Persoonia hirsuta

Geebung, Hairy Geebung

Family: Proteaceae

A spreading to low-lying shrub, to 1.5 metres tall. It grows in dry sclerophyll forest and woodland, shrubland, as well as heath on sandstone soils.

It has a restricted distribution, growing in the north from Wollemi National Park, Yengo NP and Parr State Conservation Area, extending into north-west and northern Sydney and south to Hill Top and Bargo in the southern highlands and east to the Cataract Dam area.

It is a listed threatened species in the wild. The species is split into two threatened subspecies.
• subspecies evoluta occurs sporadically in the south of the range and north-west; it has wider leaves which are spathulate to elliptic.
• subspecies hirsuta occurring from Gosford to Appin, with narrower linear leaves and revolute margins.

There are intergrades between the two species found in the wild.

Leaves are spathulate to elliptic-linear or narrow-oblong, to 15 mm long and to 5 mm wide with the edges curved downwards (reflexes) or rolled under (revolute); and covered in a coat of white spreading hairs.

Persoonia flowers are typically produced either solitarily, or, in a raceme-like arrangement which can grow on into a leafy shoot.

The flower structure is very similar to genera such as Hakea and Grevillea; a perianth of 4 tepals (either sepals or petals) is at the base, 4 stamens which rise above the perianth (the anther bases can be fused to the tepals or free), surrounding one carpel (female part); almost always yellow in colour.

In this species, the flowers are borne singly or in groups of up to ten, on a rachis up to 10 cm long, that will grow on into a leafy shoot after flowering. The tepals are yellow or orange, about 10 mm long with the overall flowers about 15 mm wide by 20 mm long. Flowering mostly occurs from November to January

The drupe is fleshy, green to cream-coloured with red streaks.

In the garden

This species is not known to be cultivated. This is likely due to its listed threatened status. It may become available for cultivation in the future. It grows naturally on shallow sandstone-derived soils, and so likely needs a free draining sandy soil to thrive.

It is a “dainty” looking plant with spreading to weeping stems and the coating of hairs makes it attractive.

Propagation

Generally difficult from seed or cuttings and seed needs to be scarified and sown as soon as fresh. Propagation of Persoonia species is becoming more common in nurseries and working with the seeds has attracted many amateur attempts; but with large amounts of resulting frustration.

There is advice that the outer fruit coating (the exocarp) needs to be clipped to open it up, and then the seed put into a solution containing the plant propagation hormone GA (Giberellic Acid) for several hours to days. This will trigger the seed to germinate.

Other techniques include putting fruits in a bag with potting mix for 12 months and storing in a glass house / propagation shed, then clean and sand the fruits and then sow, with germination taking another 6 months.

Other information

Persoonia is a genus of about one hundred species all of which are endemic to Australia.

It is reported that the fruit can be eaten raw or cooked. Succulent but astringent. The fruit has a sweet fibrous pulp that is fixed to one large seed, it tastes somewhat like sweet cotton wool and is relished by Australian First Nations People.

The term geebung is derived from the Dharug language word geebung, while the Wiradjuri term was jibbong.

This species regenerates from seed after fire. It tends to respond well after fire.

Persoonia – named after Christiaan Hendrik Persoon (1761-1836), a South African botanist and mycologist who is most well-known for describing mushroom species. The genus was named in his honours by James Edward Smith (1759-1828), an English botanist and founder of the Linnean Society.
hirsuta – from Latin meaning “hirsute” – shaggy or hairy (bristly) referring to the hairs on the leaves.

This species is listed being threatened with extinction at both the State and Commonwealth level, with the category of endangered.

Along with loss of habitat, The European honeybee has been implicated in the decline of this species as it is suspected of being a poor pollinator of Persoonia flowers.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persoonia
https://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=19006
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persoonia_hirsuta
https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Persoonia~hirsuta

By Jeff Howes