There is no doubt. There are some pretty amazing plants in this world of ours. Two in particular stand out for me amongst the Australian flora – the Gymea Lily and the Xanthorrhoea or Grass Tree.
Gymea Lilies do not like our climate, and I have not attempted to grow them. However, when it comes to Grass Trees, I am happy to report that I have had wonderful success.
Grass Trees are protected in Australia, you are not permitted to harvest them from the wild without a permit, and they are very difficult to transplant successfully – taking up to 3 years to decide whether they like their new location or not. They are consequently also very expensive to purchase. They are strange plants, having a stem which emerges from beneath the ground, which then can grow quite tall, pushing the skirt of grassy leaves up as it lengthens.
So why this protection? Well, simply because they take a very long time to grow and can live up to 600 or more years! I was able to get some Xanthorrhoea seed some 14 years ago and planted it in pots in my greenhouse. The tiny grass like leaf that emerged took 3 years to get a mere 5cm (about 3 inches) in height. I had pretty well given up on them ever doing much, but decided to eventually plant them in a well drained, raised area in my garden and see what happened.
A lovely group of Grass Trees – all grown from seed many, many years ago.
Some 12 years later, most of the plants were still alive, but not really growing that well. Then, surprisingly, in the past 2 years, about half the plants decided to suddenly flourish. (Sadly, the other half decided that life was not so good, and have quietly succombed :-( )
That is one very long and spectacular flower spike. The individual flowers are small and white – the white line down the left of the spike shows where the flowers are starting to open.
This year, I have been rewarded with the ultimate prize – a flower spike. This is quite unusual, as these plants generally only flower after a fire has occurred. The spike is some 3m or 10 feet in length, and has only just started to show open flowers. To give you some idea of how large this plant is, I got my partner to stand next to it.
Lots of small flowers emerging on the side of the large flower spike.
The stem of the flower spike is very large, at the base as you can see.
I am so delighted with my beautiful grass trees. Nature is just so wonderful. And hopefully, soon, I will have a new lot of seed to start the process all over again!
If this species has intrigued you and you would like to read a bit more about it (it is worth it, they are amazing plants!) a search on the web will reveal lots of fascinating information. If you want a nice summary, then Wikipedia will give this to you.