Verticordia is a genus of more than 100 species of plants commonly known as featherflowers, in the myrtle family, Myrtaceae. They range in form from very small shrubs such as V. verticordina to trees like V. cunninghamii, some spindly, others dense and bushy, but the majority are woody shrubs up to 2.0 m (7 ft) tall. The flowers are variously described as "feathery", "woolly" or "hairy" and are found in most colours except blue. They often appear to be in rounded groups or spikes but in fact are always single, each flower borne on a separate stalk in a leaf axil. Each flower has five sepals and five petals all of a similar size with the sepals often having feathery or hairy lobes. There are usually ten stamens alternating with variously shaped staminodes. The style is simple, usually not extending beyond the petals and often has hairs near the tip. All but two species are found in Southwest Australia, the other two occurring in the Northern Territory.
|V. plumosa growing on Mount Melville|
The first scientific collection of verticordia specimens was made in 1791 and the first formal description of a verticordia was written in 1826 but the name Verticordia was not used until 1828. Alex George undertook a revision of the genus and in 1991 published a paper describing three subgenera, 24 sections, and 102 species.
Verticordia species occupy a wide variety of habitats, with some species widespread and abundant whilst others are rare and endangered. The profuse and striking display of intricate flowers of many species has led them to being harvested for floristry or simply admired as a wildflower.
The genus is best known for its flowers, often described in superlatives, which form massed displays in woodlands and heaths. These shrubs have appealed to amateur collectors and botanists, and were appreciated by the peoples of Australia before European settlement. The fringed or feathered appearance of the flowers is often enhanced by vivid and contrasting colours: this has given a common name for the genus, featherflower. The variety displayed within the species, and between species in the genera is highly diverse.
The genus is part of the family Myrtaceae which exist, predominantly, in the southern hemisphere. The family was highly successful in southern Jurassic Gondwana, remaining as the highly diverse tree and woody shrub genera found in Australia. Verticordia are native to Western Australia and the Northern Territory, and are closely related to Chamelaucium, Rylstonea, and Darwinia. The genus Homoranthus, found in other states of Australia, contains two species previously supposed to be Verticordia.
The single flowers are often presented erect, these may be supported individually or grouped into tight displays of various arrangements. They may appear in succession or at once. The colour often varies as the flower ages, further adding to a painterly effect. The sepals are divided into lobes, with the exception of Verticordia verticordina, in a variety of thread-like or feathery forms. The colour of the sepals and petals is highly diverse, it may be solid, or variable, or mutable.
These may be of several colours, or solid, the striking combinations are of all colours except blue. There is no unisexual flowers in the species. Different species may be growing together, their massed displays creating painterly contrasts in flowering landscapes.
They are highly variable in appearance, often as a woody shrub, low or up to 2 metres, two tropical species are 7 metres. Branches may be upright or splayed out, sometimes pendulous, and are tightly or sparsely arranged. Leaves are very small or medium, scattered or opposite, and might be ciliated at the margin. The leaf shape is highly variable across, and these may differ at the base and floral leaves on individuals.
Archibald Menzies was the first European naturalist to make collections of verticordias. Menzies sailed on HMS Discovery during the Vancouver Expedition and made his collections in October 1791 near King George Sound, but these specimens would remain undescribed for 35 years.:5
The first formal description of a plant now known as a verticordia was by René Desfontaines in 1826. Desfontaines described a specimen which Robert Brown had collected at Lucky Bay in January 1802. Brown had been engaged as naturalist aboard HMS Investigator led by Matthew Flinders. The specimen was given the name Chamaelaucium brownii, in honour of Brown.:6
The first formal description of the genus Verticordia was written in 1828 by Augustin de Candolle and published in his Prodromus Systematis Naturalis Regni Vegetabilis. De Candolle transferred Chamelaucium brownii (as Verticordia brownii) and Chamelaucium fontanesii (now known as Verticordia plumosa) to the new genus but did not nominate a type species or provide an etymology for the name. It is possible that the type for Chamelaucium fontanesii was collected by Archibald Menzies in 1791 but collections of this species had also been made by Leschenault in 1803. The derivation of the name Verticordia was not explained by de Candolle, but it has generally been taken as a reference to the epithet of the ancient Roman goddess Venus. Venus's sacred flower was the myrtle, of a plant in same family (Myrtaceae) as Verticordia. The name Verticordia, literally translated, means 'turner of hearts'.:6
Other early additions to the genus were V. cunninghamii named in 1843 by Johannes Schauer for a collection made by Allan Cunningham, and V. huegelii and V. insignis collected by Charles von Hügel and described by Stephan Endlicher in 1837. The German botanist Ludwig Preiss collected more than 2,000 species of plants whilst living in Western Australia, including those named V. endlicheriana, V. habrantha and V. lehmannii by Schauer in 1843.
In 1991, Alex George undertook a review of the genus and described 84 new species, subspecies, and varieties. All were grouped into three subgenera and twenty-four sections. His infrageneric classification was supported by a study of chromosome number in Verticordia and of barriers to hybridisation.
At present, the subgenera are Chrysoma with seven sections and twenty-one species, subgenus Verticordia with eleven sections and thirty-six species, and subgenus Eperephes with six sections and forty-four species.:99–114
Distribution and habitatEdit
Verticordia occur naturally in woodlands, sandy heaths and on granite outcrops. The mediterranean climate, sandy soils of the Southwest of the state, is where the greatest number of Verticordia species are found.
Use in horticultureEdit
Verticordia are known for their feather-like or fringed flowers, the beauty of these is invariably included in any description. This has been accompanied by a high desirability as a garden plant, and as a cut flower. Restrictions exist on the collection of wildflowers in Western Australia, but previous collection of flowers for the floral industry is thought to have placed some species under duress.
They are generally somewhat difficult to grow in cultivation, but some success has been achieved. The most reliable species is V. Plumosa, the Plumed Featherflower, but many other species are found in highly specialised habitat. Outside of their natural habitat Verticordia have shown consistently good results in the temperate regions of Australia. All species require excellent drainage and prefer Mediterranean-type climate of very dry summers and wet winters.
The cultivation of Verticordia in the Eastern states of Australia has proved difficult; many of the species are intolerant of the wet summers of those regions, especially with regard to root or collar rot and moulds and mildew. The successes achieved by some growers have been through the use of bell jars, attention to soil types and potting mixes, and, experimentally, the use of grafting onto plants of related genera, such as Darwinia citriodora and Geraldton Wax, Chamelaucium uncinatum.
- George, E.A. (2002), Verticordia: the turner of hearts: 101
- Egerton-Warburton, Louise M.; Ghisalberti, Emilio L.; Burton, Neville C. (1998). "Intergeneric Hybridism between Chamelaucium and Verticordia (Myrtaceae) Based on Analysis of Essential Oils and Morphology". Australian Journal of Botany. 46 (2): 201–208. doi:10.1071/BT96125.
- (Berndt) George, Elizabeth A.; Pieroni, Margaret (2002). Verticordia: the turner of hearts. Crawley, Western Australia; Canberra: University Of Western Australia Press. ISBN 978-1-876268-46-6.
- "Chamelaucium brownii". APNI. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
- Desfontaines, René Louiche (1819). "Supplement au memoire sur le genre Chamelaucium". Memoires du Museum d'Histoire Naturelle. 5: 271. Retrieved 27 May 2016.
- "Verticordia DC". APNI. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
- Sharr, F.A., ed. (1996). Western Australian plant names and their meanings : a glossary (2nd (Enlarged) ed.). University of Western Australia Press. p. 73. ISBN 1875560432.
- "Verticordia cunninghamii". APNI. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
- Schauer, Johannes Conrad (1843). Monographia Myrtacearum Xerocarpicarum. p. 207. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
- "Verticordia huegelii". APNI. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
- "Verticordia insignis". APNI. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
- Endlicher, Stephan (1837). Enumeratio plantarum quas in Novae Hollandiae ora austro-occidentali ad fluvium Cygnorum et in Sinu Regis Georgii collegit Carolus liber baro de Hugel. Vienna. pp. 46–47. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
- "Verticordia endlicheriana". APNI. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
- "Verticordia habrantha". APNI. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
- "Verticordia lehmannii". APNI. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
- George, Alex (1991). "New taxa, combinations and typifications in Verticordia (Myrtaceae : Chamelaucieae)". Nuytsia. 7 (3): 231–394.
- Tyagi, AP.; Mccomb, J.; Considine, J. (1991). "Cytogenetic and Pollination Studies in the Genus Verticordia DC (Abstract)". Australian Journal of Botany. 39 (3): 261–272. doi:10.1071/BT9910261.
- George, Alex S.; Barrett, Matthew D. (2010). "Two new taxa of Verticordia (Myrtaceae: Chamelaucieae) from south-western Australia". Nuytsia. 20: 309–318.
- Elliot, Rodger (December 1999). "Shrubby Myrtles". Australian Plants online. ASGAP. Retrieved 26 September 2008.
- Elizabeth George (May 2004). "Bringing Verticordia out of the Too Hard Basket". Australian Plants online – 2006. ASGAP. Retrieved 30 October 2007.
- Neville Passmore (1999-02-05). "Feather Flowers Factsheet". Gardening Australia. ABC. Retrieved 5 November 2007.
- Josh Byrne (2007-11-17). "Fact Sheet: Verticordias". Gardening Australia. ABC. Retrieved 7 April 2008.
- Max Hewett (December 1995). "Verticordia in the Garden". Australian Plants online – June 2003. Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants. Retrieved 6 January 2008.
From Australian Plants, the societies journal. Max Hewett is leader of ASGAP's Verticordia Study Group.
- "Verticordias". Botanic garden. Botanic Gardens & Parks Authority (Kings Park). 2008. Archived from the original on 22 July 2008. Retrieved 7 April 2008.
- Seaton, K.A. (2006). "Comparison of vase-life and ethylene response of Verticordia cut flowers". Journal of Horticultural Science & Biotechnology. 81 (4): 721–727. doi:10.1080/14620316.2006.11512129.
- "Verticordia". FloraBase. Western Australian Government Department of Parks and Wildlife.
- "Verticordia". Australian Plant Name Index (APNI), IBIS database. Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, Australian Government.
- Verticordia Römische Mythologie, Aus Vollmer's Mythologie aller Völker, Stuttgart 1874