Zieria compacta

Family: Rutaceae

An erect, bushy shrub, growing to about 2 metres high with a 1-metre spread and forming a compact, dense habit.

It has a large distribution, mainly occurring in the tablelands areas of the east coast, from as far north as east of Tambo in Queensland, extending east to Fraser Island, south through Towoomba, Warwick and then around Glen Innes in NSW. Through NSW, there is a somewhat of a disjunction with some scattered records west of Coonabarabran, and between Gloucester and Armidale, then many records in Wollemi National Park, extending south through the Blue Mountains and southern highlands, then with a large disjunction to the south coast near Bega and Pambula.

It usually grows on steep rocky hillsides in poor soils on granite or sandstone.

Branches are dotted with oil glands, with stellate hairs, becoming hairless as they get older.

Zieria spp. have leaves arranged in opposite pairs, compound with three leaflets (tri-foliolate) or one leaflet (uni-foliolate). When trifoliolate, the leaflets are often similar in shape with the middle leaflet often larger, and with leaves usually strongly odorous, green to grey-green.
In this species, the leaves are trifoliolate, with leaflets elliptic to ovate, with the middle leaflet to 35 mm long and to 8 mm wide and the others smaller,

Zieria spp. have flowers arranged in groups (cymose clusters) in the leaf axils and have four sepals joined at the base and four petals, alternating with the sepals. There are four stamens and four fused carpels.
In this species, flowers are white to pale pink and are arranged in clusters, as long as the leaves, of mostly 6 flowers (but sometimes can be anywhere from 1 to 35) in leaf axils. The clusters are usually about as long as the leaves, occurring in spring.

Zieria have a fruit described as a schizocarp-capsule which splits into segments called cocci (singular coccus). Fruit generally have four lobes, each containing one or two seeds. In this species the fruit is glabrous, composed of up to four sections joined at the base and which burst open to release their seeds when ripe.

In the garden

Not a lot of information is currently available regarding this species in cultivation. It may be more readily cultivated in the future.

Many Zieria make interesting garden plants and deserve a place in gardens. They are a member of the Rutaceae family which include the genera Boronia, Philotheca and Crowea, all of which can be challenging to grow.

Some species are more commonly grown. They require good drainage, preferably on a light sandy soil and a semi-shaded area. They have soft foliage, can be pruned into nice-rounded shrubs and can flower prolifically.

Check local native nurseries for any species being propagated.


In common with most members of the Rutaceae, propagation from seed is difficult but cuttings usually strike readily from current season’s growth.

Other information

This species has been historically treated as a subspecies of Boronia fraseri but has been found to be different from that taxon.

Zieria is a genus strongly odoriferous soft-woody shrubs, or small trees, with over 40 species described, all of which are endemic to Australia except for one species which is found in New Caledonia. They occur in all Australian states except Western Australia but the genus is under review and a number of species are yet to be described or the description published. NSW currently has about 34 species; several listed as threatened.

Zieria are similar to the better known genus Boronia but can be distinguished by the number of stamens in the flowers – four and eight in Boronia.

Most Zieria would die in a bushfire and regenerate from seeds. Suckering from roots may be possible.

Zierianamed in honour of Jan Zier (d. 1793), by Sir James E. Smith. Zier was a Polish botanist and cryptogam (ferns, mosses, lichen and fungi) specialist, for which there is little information online. He assisted Jacob Friedrich Ehrhart, the Director of the Botanical Garden of Hannover.

compactaLatin – meaning “compact” or “compressed” referring to the species habit.

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

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

Wikipedia – Zieria and Zieria compacta profile pages                        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zieria                                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zieria_compacta

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke