Rare plants in abundance after fire

By Ralph Cartwright

John Arney from Sutherland group led a recent walk in Kamay NP at Kurnell and pointed out these plants.

Apparently the juvenile leaves on Commersonia hermanniifolia, (previously Rulingia hermanniifolia), had some people wondering if this was a new weed.

The leaves on the right are from an older adult plant. It is coming up in several spots in the recently burnt areas of both Kamay and the Royal and is temporarily prolific, as mentioned in Alan Fairley’s book under the “Seldom Seen” section, where he mentions it’s limited presence until after fire.

On PlantNet, it is noted as rare.

According to the ABG website, it is in the genus Commersonia, a member of the family Malvaceae which ranges from small shrubs to large trees such as the Flame Tree (Brachychiton acerifolius).

The habit of C. hermanniifolia places it among low growing sub-shrubs and mat-forming plants that are useful in varying situations in most gardens.

It is well suited for rock gardens as it follows contours and crevices, flowing gracefully over rocks.

In spring the plant is covered with pink tinged buds followed by small star-like flowers which are borne in cymes. The flowers open white and fade to pink with a red centre, giving an attractive contrast as the old flowers are replaced by new ones. The fruit also provides colour from late November with its deep red capsule about 4 mm in diameter.

It occurs naturally on Sydney sandstone and along the coast where its habitat coincides with that of the Rock Wallaby. Its foliage is often damaged by regular cropping by this animal.