L. tinctoria, L. tasmanica and L. polymorpha
There are 14 species of Lomatia;
This plant is something of an enigma as it only occurs (as far as anyone knows) in rainforest at an altitude from sea-level to 900 feet (275 metres) in one small locality at the southern end of the Bathurst Range near Cox Bight which is on the southernmost coast of South West Tasmania.Lomatia tasmanica is a small tree up to 5 metres high, branched at the top, or sometimes the trunk is inclined with a few erect branches. The leaves are very striking, being pinnate with 7-11 pairs of leaflets, deeply and irregularly toothed, shiny and dark green in colour. Young leaves are shiny and bright green. The very young stems and buds are covered in soft reddish brown hairs. The inflorescences are terminal racemes.(i.e. the flowers grow in clusters at the tips of the stems) In its natural state the flowers are shorter or scarcely longer than the uppermost leaves. However, if one is clever enough to grow it “in captivity” the racemes are considerably longer and therefore very showy. Seeds have never been found. The closest living relative is Lomatia ferruginea which occurs in far-away Chile.
|The discovery of Lomatia tasmanica is a source of
pride for the author's family. In 1934 Deny King (a well-known amateur
naturalist) was tin mining at Cox Bight. One day, when rambling through
the bush, he found a strange and interesting plant he’d never seen before.
On his next visit to Hobart he took specimens to the Tasmanian Herbarium.
It was new to their botanists as well and specimens were sent off to Kew
Gardens in England. The accompanying letter stated “A man called King
brought this plant in the other day - I cannot place it at all.” In fact
the plant was not named until the 1960’s as it was necessary to have flowers
in order to classify it. In January 1965 the King family travelled
on an important mission to Cox Bight to collect flowers of this strange new
plant for the eminent Tasmanian botanist, Dr Winifred Curtis. Lo and behold,
the plant was in flower! The blooms were rusty red in colour and looked
rather like grevilleas.
Now...how to grow Lomatia tasmanica - WITH EXTREME
DIFFICULTY! In the wild it propagates by layering, roots forming at the
nodes, but it can be grown from cuttings. The Royal Tasmanian Botanical
Gardens take tip cuttings, and using “Ezy Root” and “Clonex” are then placed
in a very porous free-draining mix. The cuttings strike easily with bottom
heat. The trouble starts when growing them on when, for no apparent
reason, they turn black and die. They resent any disturbance, therefore
potting on into larger containers is an extreme “health hazard” for the plants.
The Botanical Gardens have two six-year old plants in pots which hardly
ever flower as they are constantly raided for propagation material, most
of which strike but one by one they die off. Ken Gillanders at Woodbank Nursery
grafts scions of Lomatia tasmanica onto L. tinctoria. One would think this
would be utterly foolproof but they have still proved very difficult to grow.
Wrigley and Fagg (Banksias, Waratahs and Grevilleas) point out that further
work may be necessary to determine cultural techniques, but heavy shade,
rich loam and ample moisture are recommended.