Persoonia mollis

Soft Geebung

Family: Proteaceae

A very variable, erect to prostrate shrub, growing to 5 metres tall by up to several metres wide, for which 9 subspecies are currently recognised.

Plants are generally found between the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury River, south to the Clyde River (Batemans Bay), mainly on the central coast and south coast of NSW but extending into the tablelands.

It grows in dry and wet sclerophyll forest, woodland and heath, mainly on sandstone but also on other metasediments.

Plants have smooth bark and young branchlets are covered with greyish to rust-coloured hairs.

Leaves are linear, oblong/narrow-oblong, to lanceolate or spathulate, to 120 mm long and to 20 mm wide, mid-green, usually much paler on the lower surface, alternate to opposite or whorled in their arrangement.

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 flowers are arranged in groups of up to thirty, in raceme-like groups up to 150 mm long, with the flowering shoot growing into a leafy shoot after flowering. Flowering mostly occurs from late December to May.

The fruit is a green drupe about 8 mm long and 7 mm wide

In the garden

This species (with its subspecies) is not readily known in cultivation, likely due to difficulties with propagation. It would make a nice garden addition if grown with its comparatively smaller nature and nice generous leaves. Grows on sandstone mainly but may tolerate a heavier soil. Sourcing plants may be very difficult.

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.

Nine subspecies are recognised:
• subsp. mollis: occurring in the Blue Mountains and Sydney coastal areas
• subsp. maxima: a taller plant occurring in Berowra Valley NP and nearby areas like Cowan. It is a listed threatened taxon (endangered);
• subsp. ledifolia: a nice rounded shrub occurring commonly in the southern highlands (Jamberoo, Kangaloon, to Wingello).
• subsp. budawangensis – confined to the Budawang Ranges
• subsp. nectans – occurring from Oakdale to Hilltop and East to the Illawarra Escarpment
• subsp. livens – growing between Penrose, Goulburn and Braidwood.
• subsp. caleyi – growing between Jervis Bay and Durras Lake
• subsp. leptohylla – with narrow leaves, growing in the Budawangs, Jervis Bay and Lake Conjola area.
• subsp. revoluta – a prostrate species known from Wombeyan Caves Rd (Bullio and High Range) as well as Canyonleigh and Berrima

There are populations of hybrids between subspecies and between subspecies and other species.

Can regenerate from seedbank 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 honour by James Edward Smith (1759-1828), an English botanist and founder of the Linnean Society.

mollis – Latin term meaning ‘soft’ – referring to a covering of soft hairs on the leaves and stems.

Not known to be at risk in the wild. However, Persoonia mollis subsp. maxima is a listed threatened taxon.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persoonia

https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/threatenedSpeciesApp/profile.aspx?id=10597

https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Persoonia~mollis

By Jeff Howes, edited by Dan Clarke