TASMANIAN FEDERATION FLOWER

 
    Photo: Kris Schaffer
Phebalium daviesii
To celebrate the Centenary of Federation, each state and territory chose a floral emblem to mark the occasion. These flowers were used in special displays, bouquets and plantings throughout 2001.  Tasmania selected the recently discovered St Helens Wax Flower, Phebalium daviesii, which only occurs in a small area on the banks of the George River in north-eastern Tasmania. The species was last collected in 1892 and had been considered extinct until being rediscovered by fern expert Mike Garrett in 1990. It is currently listed as an endangered species.

Phebalium daviesii is a small shrub that grows to a height of 1 -1.5 m and a width of 0.6-1.5 m. The small flowers are  cream to pale yellow, and grow at the end of the stem, but profuse flowering produces a most attractive effect. The leaves are 2-3 cm long, wedge shaped, green above and covered with silver hairs on the underside and  tightly packed on the stems.
The young branches are clothed in brown scales and have a dusky appearance. The flowering period extends from September to November and single plants will hold their flowers over a period of 4 - 6 weeks.

This species can be propagated readily from cuttings, could be mass produced and grown in the ground, and has some potential as a foliage plant for the florist industry. It is currently being  propagated locally in several native plant nurseries and is being planted in home gardens. In the wild it grows on the banks of a river above the waterline in a free draining granite sand in an open forest community. In cultivation the plant would be favoured by a protected, sunny to semi-shaded position in freely draining acidic soil with a moderate amount of watering. It is able to withstand moderate frosts. Regular light pruning will help to create a well shaped plant.

Propagation

a)  The species strikes readily from cuttings but no success has been achieved from seed.
b)  Cuttings can be taken most of the year if propagation occurs under glass. Cuttings have
     been taken successfully at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens  in January, April, May,
     November and December with a strike rate of about 60%.
c)   Seed germination has been poor with no germinants 5 months after sowing in a 50/50 sphagnum
     moss and sand mix with bottom heat.
d)  Cuttings can be ready to pot up in tubes after 2 months and  in 6" pots after 6 months.
e)   Semi-hardwood lateral cuttings are best taken at 7-10cm in length.
f)   No information is available on the life of the cut flower but as the plant holds its flowers  4-6 weeks
      it's likely the flowers would last 2 weeks as a florists' specimen and have a good vase life.

Information supplied by Mark Fountain - Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens

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