Westringia eremicola

Slender Westringia / Slender Western Rosemary

Family: Lamiaceae

A shrub to 1.5 metres tall, spreading up to 1 metre wide.

It has a large natural distribution, growing from the far south coast of NSW, through all the tablelands subdivisions, as well as central and northern western slopes and just into the western plains (as far as Griffith). It extends into Queensland, as far north as north-west of Bundaberg and further west to the south of Rolleston. It has a patchy distribution right across Victoria and grows in the south of South Australia, to the north of Elliston, and also Kangaroo Island. Unsurprisingly, there is some noted variation in some of the populations.

It typically grows in dry sclerophyll woodland and mallee shrublands, on sandy soils.

Westringia spp. have simple and opposite or whorled leaves, usually in whorls of 3 to 5. In this species, they are linear and slightly prickly, to 20 mm long by about 1.5 mm wide, carried in whorls of three; non-aromatic, green to grey-green and hairy on both surfaces.

Flowers have a shape described as labiate (applies to all Lamiaceae flowers) with 5 petals varying in their size, fused at their base, produced in leaf axils. One of the identification features which separates Westringia from Prostanthera is that the 5 calyx parts (basal whorl of the flower) are separated into 5 parts, whereas they are fused into 2 ‘lips’ in Prostanthera. Flowers are typically solitary but clustered heavily in leaf axils, appearing as leafy racemes. In this species, white or mauve/purple flowers, often with orange dots, to about 1 cm long, are carried in the leaf axils. Spring and summer are the main flowering periods but sporadic flowering may occur at other times.

The fruit of Westringia are small mericarps or ‘nutlets’. A cluster of 4 is produced at the base of each flower after pollination. They are only 1 to 2 mm long.

In the garden

This species is known to be cultivated and is sold at nurseries and online.

Author’s notes:

In our cold climate garden, Westringia eremicola has proved to be a hardy, free flowering small shrub. The species is frost hardy and drought resistant. We have a form that produces masses of attractive mauve flowers. This form probably comes from the Torrington area, near Glen Innes, northern NSW. We have many specimens scattered throughout our garden.

A well drained situation in full sun or half shade suits Westringia eremicola.

Rockeries and native cottage gardens would benefit from the addition of Westringia eremicola.

There is a popular hybrid-cultivar called ‘Wynyabbi Gem’ which is a cross of W. fruticosa x W. eremicola.


Westringia spp. are propagated very easily from cuttings. Seed can also be used.

Other information

There are about 25 species of Westringia, endemic to Australia, occurring in all states and territories except the Northern Territory. NSW currently has 15 species. There are many cultivars.

Most Westringia spp. regenerate from seed after fire. They can possibly sucker from basal stem-root zones.

Westringia – named after Johan Peter Westring (1753-1833), an 18th century Swedish physician who administered to the King of Sweden and was a botanical authority on lichens.

eremicola – from Greek – erimos (ερημος) meaning ‘desert’ and –cola which is Latin for ‘dwell’ or ‘reside’. (The species was formally described in 1834 based on plant material collected by Allan Cunningham near the Lachlan River, central NSW.

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

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

Profile sheet on Westringia eremicola by Alan Carr – (organisation unknown) https://sunshinesgap.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/06-westringia-eremicola.pdf

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 Warren and Gloria Sheather. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke.