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Blue Mountains Group Emblem - Lambertia formosa

Ruth Overton

Ruth Overton passed away in 2003. She was a life member of the Australian Plants Society (NSW) and foundation member of the Blue Mountains Group. Her work and that of the many volunteers who maintain the Glenbrook Native Plants Reserve was recognised in a statement to the NSW Parliament on 25 June 2003.

When a two hectare area of land beside the Great Western Highway in Glenbrook, New South Wales, was gazetted in 1967 as a Reserve for the preservation of native flora, the Blue Mountains Group was given permission, under the guidance of a Trust, to maintain this place as a show piece for the native plants of the region.

One of the most commonly occurring plants growing there was Lambertia formosa, or mountain devil, in the family Proteaceae. Indeed it is found growing over a wide range of Hawkesbury and Narrabeen sandstone of NSW. There are ten species of the genus Lamberia, all found in the south west of Western Australian except L. formosa.

Lambertia formosa   

L. formosa is usually an erect woody shrub up to two metres tall with stems rising from a lignotuber. The leaves, mostly in whorls of three, are linear 3-5 cms long, mucronate (very!), dark shiny green above, recurved, pale beneath, with a very prominent mid-vein.

People find this an easily recognisable plant because of its fruit, a woody follicle resembling a devil's face with its shortpointed snout and a long horn on each valve.

The inflorescence is a terminal cluster of seven bright red tubular flowers enclosed within an involucre of red and gold bracts. The lobes of the perianth tubes are rolled back, revealing a rigid projecting style. The sessile anthers occur on the perianth lobes and are revolute with them. Flowering occurs mainly from August to December although odd flowers can always be found.

Propagation is by seed, though it can be fairly slow to flower. To obtain the seed, allow the capsule to dry thoroughly, when he devil's head will split open revealing two seeds. It is suited to a moist, well-drained position and is improved by pruning. Like lots of slow-growing species it can be very long lived. A bush that was growing on my footpath when I came to Glenbrook more than fifty year ago is still flourishing and flowering and much beloved of the large honey-eaters.

Provided that the honey-eaters and their habitat are conserved, the Blue Mountains Group is not likely to have to change its emblem because it has become scarce. Where would the tourist trade and the many organisations which embrace stylistic forms be without the "Mountain Devil"? More importantly may its bright red flower keep on glowing in the bush!

From Native Plants for New South Wales, newsletter of the Australian Plants Society (NSW), July 2001.

The illustrated drawing of Lambertia formosa used by the Blue Mountains Group was drawn some years ago for a National Botanic Gardens publication and is used with its agreement.

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