Conostylis aculeata, Prickly conostylis
A great ground cover.
The Conostylis genus is endemic to Western Australia and is found mostly in the south west corner of that state where they generally grow in well drained sandy soil. There are some 45 species and are all perennial, tufted herbs and are closely related to the Kangaroo Paws. The genus was first formally described by botanist Robert Brown in 1810 in Prodromus Florae Novae Hollandiae.
Conostylis aculeata is a very adaptable plant and thrives in my garden, in Sydney’s northern suburbs even though it receives only afternoon sun and is growing in light dry soil over a clay base. About ten years ago, I started with a small plant and it is now approaching one metre in diameter. There are about ten sub species of this plant and I have (fortunately) one of the sub species that spreads from ‘runners’ (ie a thin stork about 150mm long from which new leaves grow).
Another interesting feature of the sub species I am growing is its ease of propagation. For a few weeks, just after flowering, these ‘runners’ produce aerial roots (with green tips) from the leaf axis. If these roots reach the ground they will grow quickly. This is how I produce new plants – I cut off these ‘runners’ above the leaf axis producing new aerial roots, and pot them on into tumblers. There is a catch (as always)! You need to closely monitor the plant as there is only a two or three week period that the plant does this.
Conostylis aculeata has masses of yellow buds that slowly open to small white flowers from late August to November (see photo). I think they are more attractive in the bud stage than when flowering as I have a preference towards yellow flowers.
Maintenance: I have found that Conostylis aculeata is really a low maintenance plant and deserves a place in every garden. I only prune off the old flower heads after flowering to tidy up the plant and water it in very dry conditions.
Overall, Conostylis aculeata is a very attractive ground cover especially as they have a long flowering period and are adaptable and hardy plants.