Plant of the Week

July 2020

Plant of the week…….06.07.20 – Auranticarpa rhombifolia
The leaves illustrate the common name Diamond Leaf Pittosporum, even though it is no longer a Pittosporum

Anyone who walks past, or views this small tree from the staff room can’t fail to notice this orange splash of colour. Previously part of the Pittosporum genus, the northern NSW and Queensland Pittosporum specimens were deemed sufficiently different to justify their own genus, Auranticarpa. (2004, 3 of the 6 species were new).
This rainforest tree is a bit out of its comfort zone down here in Melbourne, which is probably why I haven’t seen too many in cultivation (RBGM has it, of course), and I must admit, before the installation of irrigation, it was not performing anywhere near as well as it is now. It definitely needs summer irrigation, to replicate its northern Australian habitat, to produce abundant fruit capsules.

Auranticarpa rhombifolia at Burnley

As it is at the back of the bed, on the east wall of the Plant Science building, I haven’t really noticed the small fragrant flowers that are produced from spring to autumn, its extended flowering probably taking advantage of constant moisture provided by the irrigation. This extended flowering season results in a great assortment of fruit size, from large to just developing, which gives the tree a long display period for most of the year.
For a plant that produces so many fruit/seeds, you’d think that like its relative Pittosporum undulatum, it might be very weedy.  Perhaps the long germination period needed* and colder southern temperatures deters it, or perhaps the seeds are not as sticky as those of P. undulatum, which is spread so widely by birds.
For a plant we never have to maintain, requiring no pruning, it certainly provides great value, although I notice in my photo that there are some scale that need attention. These two specimens were planted several  decades ago, in the mid to late 80s, having been introduced to the Gardens by then lecturer James Hitchmough, who taught it to his Plant ID students in 1986 as an Australian plant that provides autumn colour. They seem long lived and a great survivor of a previously un-irrigated bed dominated by the Eucalyptus tricarpa, but are unlikely to reach the size they do in their northern habitat, where they can grow as tall as 25m.

*(84 days

Auranticarpa rhombifolium, a young tree at Monash University.

June 2020

Plant of the week…….30.06.20 – Montanoa bipinnatifida

A well known sight for visitors to the Rose Garden in winter is  Montanoa bipinnatifida. This tall and imposing daisy hails from Mexico, where it has a range of habitats, including roadsides,  riparian, and hillsides in the diverse Pine-Oak forests region.
This high altitude forest straddles the Tropic of Cancer and is climate temperate with summer rainfall.
Although planted in a protected spot, the specimens in the Rose Garden, even with their large leaves, don’t seem to scorch in high temperatures or suffer drought stress in Melbourne’s dry summer conditions. Another adaptable species that seems to defy the odds.
The foliage alone is reason enough to plant this towering daisy and  at a time of the year when the roses aren’t flowering, this plant provides a dramatic feature.

PS don’t forget to click on the image for a bigger picture!


Plant of the week…….22.06.20 – Hypoestes aristata

A welcome bright surprise during the long winter months is this purple flowering Hypoestes growing in the understorey of the Ficus bed. The colour of the flower in this  photo is more pink than the purple it really is, so worth  taking a look for yourself to get a better idea of the flower colour. This lower growing cultivar of the species was developed in South Africa at the Witwatersrand National Botanic Garden after selecting from the usual lilac-purple, pink and white larger forms.
This species is well known and appreciated in South Africa for its long winter flowering and drought and shade tolerance.  It’s also reported to be eaten like spinach in some areas, , although as it is a member of the Acanthaceae, it doesn’t sound very appealing to me. It is an excellent cut flower, lasting well in a vase.  I first saw this plant in coastal NSW and brought it back to Burnley to propagate. It took a fair bit of identifying, but as usual, Jill Kellow worked it out.

Note from Jill:  It took a while though – I first saw this plant at RBGM on Wednesday, ‎15 ‎August ‎2012, and didn’t know its name for several years. It was the amazingly vivid colour that caught my eye.

P.S. Isn’t it handy that we can check the date of our digital photos?






Plant of the week…….17.06.20 – Hakea multilineata

A beautiful shrub demanding your attention at this time of year is Hakea multilineata. Unlike many of the spectacular Western Australian hakeas, (such as Hakea bucculenta or H. francisiana), this species doesn’t require grafting onto an east coast rootstock to survive. Despite the flowers being within the foliage, its open canopy allows the flowers to be well displayed, and prior to being fully open are, I believe, even more spectacular. We can thank Jeremy Wallace, Burnley’s nursery manager in the ’90s and 2000’s, for this addition to the Gardens.  Jeremy had (has) a special knack of tracking down unusual native plant seed, and great skill in germinating and growing-on these native gems. Once he had them established in pots he’d offer them to the Gardens, where we’d find a spot for them to grow. All of the plants he gave us needed no irrigation to survive and were always unusual and in one case endangered in the wild.

Plant of the week…….10.6.20 – Iris unguicularis, ‘Kilbrony Marble’

Andrew tells us how he obtained this Iris cultivar, which is special in more ways than one: “a beautiful variant of the often sneered at Iris unguicularis, ‘Kilbrony Marble’, is currently in full display in the gardens. What make this  variety so special are the exquisite streaks of purple that festoon the petals. While the species flowers for just as long, March through to September, ‘Kilbrony Marble’ has lower, shorter foliage, so the flowers are far better displayed, unlike those of the species, that are often hidden among the long, strappy leaves.
Drought and shade tolerant, (although will flower better in full sun) this is one of dozens, if not more, of introductions created by the legendary Northern Ireland nursery, Slieve Donard Nursery.  This nursery was renowned for its dwarf Dierama and cold tolerant Escallonia cultivars, but sadly, many of its cultivars are now extinct.
I obtained Burnley’s ‘Kilbrony Marble’ from Geoff Olive, from his property in Buxton before he passed away in 2016. I was like a child in a candy store up there, running around Geoff’s garden exclaiming “wow, what’s that!” I took quite a few cuttings of various “eye candy” specimens, and they now hold pride of place in various spots in the Gardens.”

Plant of the week…….2.6.20 – Luculia grandifolia

Andrew says: “While we tend to swoon over Luculia gratissima, especially at the start of winter when the fragrant pink blooms take our eye, the often underrated L. grandifolia is still covered in flowers and just as fragrant. Whereas the flowers of  L. gratissima  are  all over in a month, L. grandifolia starts flowering in summer, and goes all the way through till early winter. It’s only drawback is no real fault of its own, coming from the Himalayas, (Bhutan) it doesn’t tolerate high ambient temperatures, something the lowlands of Melbourne experiences each summer. With only a few over 38 degree days last summer, the foliage of L. grandifolia is looking better than usual and the flowers buds continue unabated.”


PS don’t forget to click on the image for a bigger picture!


May 2020

Plant of the week…….27.5.20 – Clinanthus incarnatus (yellow form)

Andrew says: “Continuing on from my recent lime green/yellow plant posting, another in a similar vein is this South American bulb, the yellow form of Clinanthus incarnatus. This bulb was donated to the gardens by Fran, after I inquired if she had anything suitable for inclusion in the green border. Fran’s involvement in the Friends prop group is legendary and her broad knowledge of plants, especially Salvias, and her ability to source them, was a great resource for me to tap into. No sooner had I requested a green flower to include in the re-instated green border, (after the orchard gates were re-aligned in 2013) Fran came up with this unusual bulb.

The large flowers are well displayed above the blueish-green foliage and it’s amazing to think how adaptable this species is, considering its native habitat is rocky soils at high altitudes in the Andes. (Ecuador to Peru)


Plant of the week…….23.5.20 – Schinus molle, lime green form

A recent addition to the tree collection at Burnley is this grafted lime-green coloured Peppercorn Tree.
Burnley has been very fortunate in recent years to have David Beardsell’s grafting and plant breeding expertise to  provide drought tolerant tree species for the Gardens. His keen eye while travelling into the city on the eastern freeway spied this lime green foliaged variant of the usually dark green Peppercorn Tree and while his wife wasn’t so inclined to stop for him collect the scion material, he succeeded in persuading her that this lime-green form was worth the risk!

Left: typical dark green foliage of Schinus molle; right: young grafted lime green form. Note: could this be a new cultivar – Schinus molle ‘David Beardsell’?


Plant of the week…….18.5.20  Kniphofia ensifolia subsp. autumnalis

Andrew says: “I’ve wanted to ID this poker for a while. The original clump was at the end of the Bergenia Walk bed, on the pond side of the path. I moved some into the perennial border a few years back; like previous Gardens Manager Phil Tulk, I rather like lime green flowers.
In previous years, it always tended to start flowering in March; in this wetter year it is later: the perennial border flowers are almost done, while the Bergenia Walk clump is just starting.

This lime green poker, that turns yellow as the flowers age, is more uncommon than the red flowering form we all know so well . While the smaller-growing  green flowering cultivar  ‘Lime Glow’ has been popular in recent years, this Kniphofia subspecies, although not flowering for as long, is a welcome sight in autumn. While the natural habitat is waterlogged soils along the edges of south African streams, this plant has good tolerance for drier conditions. Nectar feeding birds and insects are attracted to the flowers.  Don’t forget to click on the image to see the full size!


Plant of the week…….10.5.20  Camellia sasanqua ‘Momozono”


From Gardens Manager Andrew Smith: “Thanks to Jane for pointing out that the correct cultivar name for the Camellia sasanqua cultivar that I posted recently is ‘Momozono’ rather than ‘Plantation Pink.’ The FOBG Guides in 2006, in particular Julie-Anne, did some great detective work in tracking tracked down the correct name for this erroneously named cultivar (it was labelled ‘Noma Goma’ in the Gardens). It seems I should place more credence on our own Guide It seems I should place more credence on our own Guides expertise than the International Camellia Society’s images that I based my identification on.



Plant of the week…….1.5.20  Lagerstroemia fauriei ‘Fantasy’,


Some lovely autumn foliage is happening at Burnley. This more uncommon Crepe Myrtle, Lagerstroemia fauriei ‘Fantasy’, with its orange autumn colouring, is complemented well with the red Boston Ivy (Pathenocissus tricuspidata) behind it. Click on the image to see the full size!






Find out what was happening in the Gardens back when ….

Remembering 2015

The Lotus eaters (Word doc)
Look out above
(Word doc)

Autumn in the Gardens (Word doc)
May in the Gardens (Word doc)