Persoonia laurina

Laurel Geebung, Geebung

Family: Proteaceae

A shrub to 2 metres tall, usually seen as a ground-hugging shrub of low height.

It has a distribution mainly on the central coast subdivision of NSW, from Bulahdelah, south to Conjola and the Budawang Ranges, extending west to Lithgow and a line approximately between Oberon and Taralga.

It grows in heath to dry sclerophyll woodland and forest, mostly on sandstone.

Young branchlets are densely hairy with greyish to rusty hairs

Leaves are opposite (sometimes appearing alternate) to 11 cm long and to 6 cm wide, flat, with sparse hairs when young, becoming hairless when mature, smooth or moderately rough.

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 tepals are to 15 mm long, partly fused at the base and densely hairy, with each flower about 20 mm wide by 20 mm long. The flowers are subtended by scale leaves and occur in small clusters or singularly, from November to January.

The drupe is fleshy and green, turning purple when ripe and oval in shape.

In the garden

P. laurina is an attractive plant with horticultural potential. Cultivating it would most likely require good water drainage, a position in sun or dappled shade and acidic soil. It is hardy to frosts. However, it appears to be short-lived in cultivation, with plants at the Mount Annan Botanic Gardens surviving for a maximum of six years after planting out. While difficult to propagate by seed, it has been easier to propagate by cuttings of new growth.

It has nice large leaves but not obviously noticeable flowers.

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.

There are currently 3 recognised subspecies in NSW:
• subsp. intermedia: Found on ranges and tablelands north of the Illawarra Highway. Occasionally farther south. This taxon has a hairy ovary and scabrous leaves
• subsp. laurina: Found on the coast and ranges north of the Illawarra Highway. This taxon has a hairy ovary and smooth leaves.
• subsp. leiogyna: Found on the coast, ranges, and tablelands, north from the Budawang Range. This taxon has a hairless (glabrous) ovary and scabrous leaves.

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

The bark was traditionally used by Aboriginal people to soak fishing lines and toughen them. Drupes were eaten by indigenous people on the Beecroft Peninsula, though were not as highly regarded as those of P. lanceolata.

All three subspecies resprout after bushfire from a woody lignotuber.

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.
laurina – from Latin – referring to Laurel-like, like a laurel or bay tree (Laurus genus) as in Hakea laurina and Tristaniopsis laurina.

Not considered at risk in the wild.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persoonia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persoonia_laurina#cite_note-floransw-10
https://apps.lucidcentral.org/plants_se_nsw/text/entities/persoonia_laurina.htm
https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Persoonia~laurina

By Jeff Howes