For nature lovers looking for a bit of an adventure, a professional flower holiday "Down Under", taking in the spectacular wildflowers of Western Australia, offers a front row seat to one of the most magnificent floral displays in the world – on show in various locations around the state for more than half the year. |
The native flora of Australia is among the most primitive and extensive in the world, with more than 12,000 species in West Australia alone – 60% of which are not found anywhere else on the planet. With that many species it may be a stretch to see them all on an individual flower holiday, but there's a high chance you'll encounter the delightfully named Kangaroo Paw, which is endemic to the south west of the state.
The Striking Kangaroo Paw
The Red and Green Kangaroo Paw, Anigozanthos manglesi, is a protected species and the official floral emblem of Western Australia. The name Kangaroo Paw is used to cover the two genus of the Haemodoraceae family of flowers - Anigozanthos and Macropidia (the latter of which is the closely related Black Kangaroo Paw). They get their name from the striking anatomy of their flower, which resembles a paw-like structure with six "claws" emanating off the stem and is renowned for its bird attracting properties.
Depending on its location, in a natural habitat the plant usually flowers between the months of August and October.
Anatomy of Anigozanthos
Anigozanthos comes from the Greek anisos, meaning unequal, and anthos, meaning flower. There are 11 species in the genus, which range in size, colour and length of stalk. The iridescent flowers can be anything from bright red to burgundy or orange-red and, while it's not obvious until seen up close, the colour actually comes from the proliferation of tiny hairs that cover every part of it, making it "furry" to the touch.
The plant itself is a low shrub that originates from one subterranean stem. It has long tapered leaves that grow up to anything from 30-60cm long. The flowering stem is red at the base, changing to a vibrant green for its length (up to a metre) then changing back to a mixture of green and deep red at the flower.
An interesting feature of the Kangaroo Paw is that the colour of the flowers changes depending on the ambient temperature of the environment – so on cooler days the colour is more intense. The colour is also affected by the amount light the plants receive, so there is a variation in hues between the same species grown in a shaded environment and those growing in full sun.
Their vivid colour and long stalks (good for perching) make them a very attractive proposition for birds to do their job of pollination. The shape of the flowers make for the perfect receptacle for the birds, and pollen is transferred to their heads then from flower to flower, as they drink the nectar. In a natural situation pollination does not often occur between different species, as the differing shapes of each flower means the pollen is transferred to and from a different part of a bird's head. Wonderful Western Australia
The Kangaroo Paw is just one of the thousands of species you'll be able to see in its natural habitat on a flower holiday to West Australia and, as one of the world's true botanical hotspots, for a nature lover, it's guaranteed to be the experience of a lifetime.
Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in wildflowers. As a passionate lover of botany, Marissa often chooses an expert-led flower holiday organised by Naturetrek, many of which have brought her unforgettable encounters with a wide range of plant species in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.
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