Tasmanian Flora Snapshot: Richea pandanifolia

Eucalyptus subcrenulata (alpine yellow gum) inhabits the subalpine regions of Tasmania where snow and frost can be frequent during winter. The mottled bark is striking, seizing the show from the Richea pandanifolia.

Eucalyptus subcrenulata (alpine yellow gum) inhabits the subalpine regions of Tasmania where snow and frost can be frequent during winter. The mottled bark is striking, seizing the show from the Richea pandanifolia.

For someone accustomed to seeing conifers and deciduous trees in US and Europe, the Tasmanian flora has an otherworldly that defies description. Its uniqueness is the legacy of its Gondwanan ancestry and complex geological history as the island was once part of the Australian mainland. Tasmania’s most famous botanical export has been its tree fern (Dicksonia antarctica) popular for its prehistoric subtropical look. Other plants would have achieved eminence if they had the same ease of cultivation, and one candidate is Richea pandanifoliaRichea pandanifolia is restricted to moist temperate rainforests between 600 and 1200 meters. It is easy to mistake these hula-skirted 3′ or tall plants for yuccas or cordylines, and what is surprising that R. pandanifolia is in Ericaceae to which rhododendrons and blueberries belong. During his antarctic voyage across the Southern Hemisphere, the British botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker first saw and described it from “Port Davy, Peak of Teneriffe, Frenchman’s Cap, and several other mountainous situations”. The flowers are rather insignificant and obscured by their appearance within the leaf axils. Those curious enough can still peer in if a closer study of the flowers is wanted.  Richea pandanifolia‘s specific cultivation requirements has limited its presence in gardens, even in Tasmania, since moist, acidic soils, with consistent moisture and cool temperatures, are not common. Nonetheless, nothing surpasses the experience of seeing them high and healthy in the mountainous forests of Tasmania.

– Eric

A young Richea pandanifolia has yet to reach the statuesque heights of older plants at Mount Field National Park, Tasmania, Australia.

A young Richea pandanifolia has yet to reach the statuesque heights of older plants at Mount Field National Park, Tasmania, Australia.

Richea pandanifolia of varying maturity create a Dr. Seussian scene in the Eucalyptus forest.

Richea pandanifolia of varying maturity create a Dr. Seussian scene in the Eucalyptus forest.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s