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Australian Floral Emblems -
Anigozanthos manglesii

Bob Dixon

The Kangaroo Paws are known botanically as the genus Anigozanthos. The genus contains eleven species all of which are endemic to south Western Australia.

Below ground they all have horizontal rhizomes (short underground stems) which vary considerably in size, providing the ability to resprout after fire. Unfortunately, very little is known about their root system; some are large and fleshy, growing vigorously early in the season, whilst others are fibrous. To my knowledge no publication has described their structure, or if they are mycorrhizal (living in symbiosis with a fungus). If they have a mycorrhizal association they are not dependent on it in cultivation as they grow very well in sterilized potting mixes. The root system in their natural habitat is dormant during summer, in dry conditions,with the plants relying on stored moisture in their rhizomes.

The leaves are generally flat, sometimes subterete (rounded), hairy or hairless usually in a fan shape on each shoot. Only one species, Anigozanthos flavidus, is regarded as evergreen; leaves of other species die down during summer, although some will keep a tinge of green in them. Some may remain evergreen, especially in cooler climates, when watered during the summer.

Flower colour is determined by the coloured hairs which cover the flower and usually at least the top part of the flowering stem. Seed varies considerably in size, shape, colour and may have a smooth surface, be pitted or furrowed; to the trained eye species can be identified by the seed alone. All species are bird pollinated, some may also be pollinated by small mammals and some of the smaller flowered species (eg. A.pulcherrimus can be pollinated by honey bees. Although we normally regard kangaroo paws as being short lived, perennial herbs, in part due to their short life span in cultivation, we have no satisfactory data on their life span.

Anigozanthos manglesii

Anigozanthos manglesii is Western Australia's state floral emblem. It is the most widespread of all the Kangaroo Paws occurring from Shark Bay to the Scott River and almost to Mt Barker, It occurs in low woodland, forest and heath, on poor sandy soils, sandy loam and gravel, on coastal limestone hills and sometimes in low lying areas eg, fringe of swamps.

Flower stems, usually single, occasionally branched are 30-110 cm high. Flowers are usually bicolor with green hairs or occasionally red or yellow hairs on the perianth and red or rarely yellow on the ovary and top of the flower stem. The perianth is sickle shaped with straight sides and fully reflexed lobes. When viewed from the underside the anthers are in a straight row at the end of the perianth and their stalks (filaments) are much shorter than the anthers. The flowering season is from August to November. Leaves are green to greyish green, flat, fairly straight 10-40 cm long and 5-12 mm wide.

Anigozanthos manglesii
Anigozanthos manglesii , the Red and Green Kangaroo Paw, is the floral emblem of Western Australia. Select the thumbnail image or plant name for a higher resolution image (45k).
Photo: Danni Church

Anigozanthos manglesii subsp. manglesii is mainly found from Lancelin and Gingin to Mt Barker. The flower stem is rarely branched. The perianth is parallel sided near the anther stalks. Hairs red occur at the base of the tube and for no more than 10% of the perianth length.

The variety flavescens has yellow hairs on the top of the flower stem and ovary, grading to greenish yellow on the perianth. It is rare and occasionally seen in red and green populations.

Anigozanthos manglesii subsp. quadrans is mainly found from Jurien Bay to Kalbarri and Shark Bay. Flower stem often once or twice branched, hairs over most of the tube and 20-30% of the perianth is orange red.

Propagation and Cultivation

This spectacular Kangaroo Paw is easy to grow in cultivation, in a full sun position with free draining preferably sandy soil; also a good container plant. Widely used as a fresh cut flower, most red and green forms are harvested from bushland populations. Other colour forms are being grown as row crops. It is usually short lived in cultivation being very susceptible to ink and rust disease; it is best repropagated each season. It is easy to germinate from seed sown in autumn or spring.

This article and diagram are part of a longer article "Kangaroo Paw - The Wild Species, Description, Propagation and Cultivation" which appeared in the March 1991 issue of the Society's Journal "Australian Plants".

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Australian Plants online - September 1997
The Society for Growing Australian Plants