Zieria cytisoides

Downy Zieria

Family: Rutaceae

A shrub with plenty of foliage, usually growing to up to 3 metres with a spread to more than 1 metre.

It has a large natural range, growing from near Cairns in Queensland, down the coast and inland, occurring in NSW through mainly the tablelands and central western slopes but also the central and south coast areas; then extending into eastern and southern-central Victoria.

It grows in dry sclerophyll forest and woodland, as well as ridge-top heath on sandy soil.

The branches have a velvet-texture with stellate hairs.

Zieria spp. have leaves arranged in opposite pairs, compound with three leaflets (tri-foliolate) or one leaflet (uni-foliolate). When tri-foliolate, 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 tri-foliolate, with the central one elliptic to ovate, to 40 mm long and to 15 mm wide, with the two lateral leaflets the same shape but smaller, with an olive-green to grey-green in colour, with undersides grey due to hairs. Leaves are strongly aromatic.

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 pale to deep-pink (rarely white) and are arranged in clusters of up to 30 in leaf axils, produced in winter and spring.

Zieria have a fruit described as a schizocarp-capsule which splits into segments called cocci (singular coccus). Fruit generally have four cocci, each containing one or two seeds. In this species, the cocci have a velvet-texture, containing black to reddish-brown seeds.

In the garden

This species is one more known to be cultivated and there are some cultivars available. It can be grown into a nice-rounded shrub with branches arising at all angles, within a 150° arc. The foliage can also be dense. It makes a very nice foliage contrast plant; the flowers are not overly showy but are attractive.

Prefers full sun or partial shade in well-drained soil. It is drought and frost tolerant. It is available at several online nurseries. Check local native nurseries for stock.

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.


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

There is a cultivar available called ‘Grey Ghost’ which has soft grey foliage.

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.

cytisoides Latin – resembling the genus Cytisus, a genus of exotic peas referred to as “brooms”. Cytisus spp. have trifoliolate leaves with some species having grey foliage.

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

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

Wikipedia – Zieria and Zieria cytisoides profile pages                         https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zieria                                 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zieria_cytisoides

Australian National Herbarium – Zieria cytisoides profile page    https://www.anbg.gov.au/gnp/gnp5/zier-cyt.html

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

Gardening with Angus – Zieria cytisoides ‘Grey Ghost’    https://www.gardeningwithangus.com.au/zieria-cytisoides-grey-ghost/

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke