Chionohebe ciliolata ORANGE CUSHION PLANT (Chionohebe ciliolata)

by Kay Geeves

This plant Chionohebe ciliolata belongs to the Family Scrophulariaceae and has a very restricted occurrence in Tasmania. It is known only from Hamilton Crags at Ben Lomond where it grows amongst rocky outcrops. The flowers are larger than in other Tasmanian Cushion Plants. It also occurs in New Zealand. Cushion Plants are composed of numerous short stems that are clothed with overlapping leaves. As growth continues and lower leaves die the debris and silt from snow melt is washed into spaces. Thick roots arising from the stems penetrate the mass helping it to consolidate into a hard, compact mound. The cushion shape is an adaptation to counter wind and cold and the importance of keeping low cannot be overestimated as the solid earth exerts frictional force thus slowing down moving air. This effect is greatest close to the ground and irregularities in the surface such as outcrops of rock or small hollows also provide protection and the Cushion's form enables it to absorb and conserve sunlight much more efficiently than a single-stemmed plant. Tasmania has five species of Cushion Plants, two belonging to Asteraceae and three more from unrelated families. Cushion Plants also occur in New Zealand, South America and Aukland, Campbell and Macquarie Islands.