Paws for Thought

Paws for Thought

I’m sure that you’re all familiar with our State floral emblem, the unique Red-and-Green (or Mangles’) Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos manglesii). Quite rightly, it’s a popular addition to native gardens right around Australia and, of course, can be found growing naturally across wide areas of southwestern WA. But there are more ‘kangaroo paws’ than just the familiar Mangles’ and the popular hybrids produced for gardens by the boffins at Kings Park. Did you know that there are actually 11 species (and 13 recognised subs-species) of Kangaroo Paw in the genus Anigozanthos? No? How about the fact that there is one species that has a genus all to itself? Read on if you’d like to learn more about this fascinating group -and who wouldn’t?

But first, a short (but interesting!) history lesson…

The genus Anigozanthos, to which all but one species of Kangaroo Paw belong, was first described by Jacques-Julien Houtou de Labillardière in 1798. Monsieur Labillardière (below) was naturalist aboard d’Entrecasteaux’s ship Espérance during its expedition to Australia in 1791-94.

Jacques-Julien Houtou de Labillardière.

In December 1792, they stopped to undertake repairs near modern Esperance, where he discovered Anigozanthos rufus (of which more anon). Unfortunately, whilst Labillardière described A. rufus, he didn’t explain the origin of the genus name. The modern consensus is that it comes from Greek anisos (unequal) and anthos (flower), describing the unequal lobes of the perianth.

…and a botanical diversion

The genus Anigozanthos is a member of the Haemodoraceae (or ‘Bloodroot’) family, which characteristically have unusual chemicals that give the roots of many species a reddish-orange colour. There are 14 genera and 103 species of Haemodoraceae, mainly in the southern hemisphere.  In WA, there are eight genera, of which six are endemic: 1) Anigozanthos,  2) Blancoa, 3) Conostylis, 4)  Haemodorum, 5) Macropidia, 6) Phlebocarya, 7) Tribonanthes, 8) Wachendorfia – introduced from South Africa.

And now…. the genus Anigozanthos

Anigozanthos is endemic to WA, where there are 11 species and 13 recognised sub-species. All are recognisable by their distinctive inflorescences (flower-heads) and are found through-out the south-west from Kalbarri to east of Esperance. They have been known as ‘Kangaroo Paws’ since the 1850s – but were originally called a ‘Kangaroo Foot’! Smaller species, that aren’t red and green, are now referred to as ‘catspaws’. Anigozanthus is closely related to the genus Macropidia (the’ Black Kangaroo Paw’), which now has its own monotypic genus.

Our Cast (in order of appearance)

WA emblem since 1960.

Anigozanthos manglesii has been Western Australia’s official floral emblem since 1960 and has been depicted in many different guises. Anigozanthos manglesii  is also known as Mangle’s Kangaroo Paw or Red and Green Kangaroo Paw

•       Two sub-species

•       Favours sand, gravel slopes, disturbed or burnt areas

•       Common from Shark Bay to Scott River and Mt Barker

•       Flowers July- Nov

Anigozanthos humilis.

Anigozanthos humilis (Catspaw):

•       3 sub-species (Giant, Common and Mogumber)

•       The most widespread species.

•       Found from Kalbarri to Dunsborough to Hopetoun

•       Flowers July-Nov

Anigozanthos bicolor.

Anigozanthos bicolor (Little Kangaroo Paw, two-coloured Kangaroo Paw):

•  Four sub-species.

•  Found in open forest, low heath

•  From Moora to Nannup and Albany to Esperance.

•  Flowers Aug – Oct

Anigozanthos viridis.

Anigozanthos viridis (Green Kangaroo Paw):

•  3 sub-species

•  Found in sandy depressions and locations that are waterlogged in winter.

•  Found on Swan Coastal Plain and scarp, Nambung National Park to Scott River and Walpole.

•  Flowers Aug-Nov.

Anigozanthos gabrielae.

Anigozanthos gabrielae (Dwarf Kangaroo Paw):

•  Found in winter-wet pink sand in depressions in sandplains around Stirling Ranges

•  Flowers Sept- Oct

Anigozanthos onycis.

Anigozanthos onycis (Branched Catspaw):

•  Abundant after fire

•  Restricted to Stirling Range east to Bremer Bay and in the west of Fitzgerald River National Park

•  Flowers Sept-Oct

Anigozanthos rufus .

Anigozanthos rufus (Red Kangaroo Paw):

•  The first Anigozanthos species to be described.

•  Found in heath and open  mallee from the Stirling Range to Israelite Bay.

•  Flowers Sept – Dec

Anigozanthos preisii .

Anigozanthos preisii (Albany Catspaw):

•  Found in low, open woodland of Albany blackbutt

•  Restricted to an area within 50 km of Albany

•  Flowers Oct-Nov

Anigozanthos pulcherrimus.

Anigozanthos pulcherrimus (Yellow Kangaroo Paw):

•  Found in low heath, seasonally-wet sand along ephemeral drainage lines, winter-wet swamps.

•  Common from Gingin to Arrowsmith River, up to 100 km inland.

•  Flowers Oct-Dec

Hopper, S.D. (1993). Kangaroo Paws and Catspaws: A Natural History and Field Guide. Department of Conservation and Land Management, Perth
Nevill, S & McQuoid, N (1998). Guide to the Wildflowers of South Western Australia (2nd Edition). Simon Nevill Publications, Perth.
FloraBase: The Western Australian Flora. (Western Australian Herbarium) at http:// florabase.dpaw.wa.
Author: Ross Young