Monday, November 16, 2009


You may have noticed (as you were meant to) that great Australian symbol, the Grass Tree, in the scorching heat outside the Adelaide Festival Theatre. They used to be called Bl-ck B-ys.

Well, you don't necessarily have to rush to Adelaide, the desert, the Stirling ranges, or your local national park. While these are rightly famous (anyone who can live for 600 years, that's two Emilys for starters, and flower best after a nasty bushfire deserves all the fame it gets), another member of the Xanthorrhoeaceae (greek: yellow-flow) family is the less flashy and shorter lived member Lomandra longifolia, skirting a freeway near you.

Don't undestimate them. I love them especially as they grow wild here, and use them in mass plantings for driveways, in clumps and near windows, bedroom windows where the evening air is heavy and honeyed from the creamy early summer flowers clustered on sharp spiky stems in a cruel combination of unapproachable sweetness.

Lomandra longifolia

But also growing wild here, impossibly wild in a world of their own, beyond intervention and cultivation, is the real thing. They are all around, close by and scattered through the bush, the whorl of blue-green leaves deceptively plain most of the time until one spring, one in goodness knows how many years, a flower spike appears.

Week by week it grows, a phallus emerging from a leaf skirt, and when fully thrust high above the understorey, held on a rigid scape, the flowers emerge, thousands of them, pearly white, open and fertile.

2 months later

In an ascending spectacle, each tiny flower appears till the whole spike is a starry array of invitation.

Nature obliges of course, who could resist.

After fruiting, the pods burst releasing several small black seeds to the earth and the cycle continues.

We are fools to time.

No comments: