Lambertia Formosa - by Jeff Howes
Common name: Mountain Devil, because of the woody fruits which are bearded and horned (see photo 1)
Lambertia: after Aylmer Bourke Lambert (1761-1842) English patron of botany.
Lambetia Formosa is a widespread plant of the Sydney Region. I planted this plant about 25 years ago in my northern Sydney suburbs garden and it is now approximately 1.6 metres high with multiple branches coming from the base. It is still growing well even though it now receives only dappled morning light and some full late afternoon sun. As well, the soil is much drier very different to the full sun conditions it enjoyed in its early years.
It receives no supplementary watering and after good soaking rains it rewards me with many flowers. The main flowering time is spring and the flowers (see photo 2) are erect and enclosed in red overlapping bracts and rich in nectar. Interestingly the plant only produces a few seeds, a pity as they are most interesting.
A hardy plant worth growing for its interesting flowers and fruit.
PS -- The plant described in this article was growing very close to a large and mature gum tree, hence it only flowering after rain had thoroughly wet the surrounding soil. About three years ago I planted another plant in a location that is 'relatively' free of root competition and it grew quite fast and is very prolific in flowering. So, site selection and the local micro climate play a big part in how well plants perform in a garden. JH (April 2013)
In the 1940s and 1950s, souvenirs were made from the fruit of this plant. Who can remember the pipe cleaner mountain devil dolls? Has the overuse of these seed pods resulted in a decline in plant numbers – any comments?
Photo 1-- an immature seed pod, it will change colour to brown when mature, note the seed has been nibbled at by a caterpillar, a common occurrence.
Photo 2 – Close up of the flower