Zieria murphyi

Murphy’s Zieria / Velvet Zieria

Family: Rutaceae

A slender shrub reaching 2 metres in height.

It has a restricted distribution in NSW, with a few records at Mt Tomah in the Blue Mountains; then with a disjunction to the southern highlands around Penrose and Bundanoon; with a final patch west of Tomerong.

It is a listed threatened species.

It grows in dry sclerophyll forest, in sheltered positions in moist gullies, on sandy soil.

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, both tri-foliolate and uni-foliolate leaves are produced (dimorphic foliage) on same branches (Mt Tomah plants are consistently tri-foliolate), with leaflets up to 50 mm long by 10 mm wide, upper surfaces dark green and hairy, lower surfaces greyish-green with a velvet texture due to stellate (star-shaped) hairs.

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, the flowers are in clusters of 3 to 10, in leaf axils; white to pale pink, occurring in spring in southern populations, but occurring all through the year at Mt Tomah.

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 fruits do not have warts but are hairy, and lack an oil body (elaisome).

In the garden

This is a listed threatened species and, as such, does not have a history of cultivation. It may be more readily cultivated in the future. A note is made here that some threatened Zieria spp. do very well in cultivation. It likely needs a sandy, well-drained soil to thrive in a semi-shaded spot.

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

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.

murphyi Named in honour of Edward Murphy of Wingello, a collector of native seeds and plants, who discovered this species.

This species is listed as being threatened with extinction in the wild, at the State and Commonwealth level with the category of Vulnerable.

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

NSW Office of Environment and Heritage – Threatened Species Profiles –                                        Zieria murphyi profile page        https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/threatenedSpeciesApp/profile.aspx?id=10860

Wikipedia – Zieria and Zieria murphyi profile page                              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zieria                                     https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zieria_murphyi

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke