Spyridium scortechinii

Corroboree, Cotton Bush

Family: Rhamnaceae

Spyridium scortechinii is a small, rounded shrub that reaches a maximum height of around 1 metre (possibly a little taller), with a spread of 60 centimetres.

It has an interesting scattered distribution in NSW, growing in an area from Tathra to Braidwood in the south / south coast of NSW. There is then a large disjunction with some scattered records between the north of Sydney and Dubbo. It is then found from south of Port Macquarie, then occurring mostly through the northern tablelands in areas such as Armidale, Glen Innes and Tenterfield and further afield. It just extends into Queensland, growing to the north of Stanthorpe.

It is usually found in dry sclerophyll woodland and forest on rocky substrates.

Spyridium spp. have small, simple and alternate leaves with persistent stipules. In this species, leaves are ovate to lanceolate, to about 20 millimetres long by up to 5 mm wide, dark green above and grey below.

Spyridium spp. typicall produce small 5-merous flowers in terminal heads or solitarily. In this species, masses of white, woolly flowers are carried in dense terminal heads and cover plants in spring.

The fruit is a capsule, less than 1 cm long.

In the garden

From Warren and Gloria Sheather:

We have a number of specimens in our cold climate garden and they have proved to be long-lived, hardy and free-flowering. This handsome shrub could be grown in native cottage gardens and as a foreground shrub in garden beds.

They are an eye-catching and unusual feature. Light pruning, after flowering, will promote bounteous blooming.

Spyridium scortechinii prefers well-drained sites in full sun or partial shade.

From Jeff Howes:

I have been growing Spyridium scortechinii for many years in my garden in the northern Sydney suburb of Westleigh. My plants are growing in a thin layer of topsoil over a clay sub soil and receive little additional watering once established. They are very hardy and grow best in full sun or part shade and also grow well under trees.

The plant also tolerates frosts as I have seen them growing in exposed gardens in Moss Vale (NSW). The only maintenance required is light pruning after flowering to keep it compact and promote better flowering next season.

If you have soil that retains moisture but is reasonably well drained, then you will find that this plant performs much better than my mostly drier situation. With the additional moisture, they will grow to 1.2 m high by 1.2 m wide and look stunning in full flower.

Editor: There is a cultivar available called ‘White Mischief’ which has been sold heavily over the years.


Propagate from cuttings.

Other information

Spyridium scortechinii was previously known as Stenanthemum scortechinii and Cryptandra scortechinii. Spyridium scortechinii is a member of the Rhamnaceae family.

Spyridium is a genus of about 30 species, endemic to Australia, growing in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. NSW currently has 3 species.

Spyridium spp. likely regenerate from seed after fire.

Spyridium – from the Greek spyridas (σπυρίδας) which means ‘basket’ (referred to in biblical times) – and reportedly relates to the ‘basket’ of bracts which surrounds the flowers.

scortechinii – refers to Rev. Benedetto Schortechini (1845-1886), 19th-century priest and botanist. He worked in Australia and collected specimens in Queensland and published several scientific articles along with working with other botanists. Sadly, he died prematurely when he travelled to India, probably from malaria. (It may be that the published species epithet is mis-spelt).

The type specimen was collected along the Severn River near Inverell in northern NSW, prior to 1900. There are records of collections made Braidwood and Bermagui in southern NSW. Also the species was collected at Apsley Falls, northern NSW. We have found Spyridium scortechinii on a creek bank about 1.5 kilometres east of our cold climate garden near Armidale.

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

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

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

Australian Nurseries Online – Spyridium scortechinii profile page https://www.nurseriesonline.com.au/plant-index/australian-native-plants/spyridium-scortechinii/

By Warren and Gloria Sheather, Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke.