An Overview of the Australian Isopogon Conebush Genus

Isopogon is a genus of some 35 southern Australian plant species, most of which are found in Western Australia. Isopogon belongs to the protea family Proteaceae. The common name of the Isopogon is drumsticks or conebush. This is a reference to the rounded or egg-shaped, woody cones which follow the flowers. These attractive shrubs are evergreen and have tough, dissected leaves. The striking flowers form dense globular heads. In general the flowers are yellow or pink.

The common plant name of the Isopogon anemonifolius is drumsticks or broad-leaf drumsticks. It is an erect, bushy shrub with flat, dull green leaves. The foliage has a purplish tinge in winter. The soft yellow flowers are produced in spring and early summer. The terminal rounded flower heads grow to 35mm in diameter. ‘Woorikee 2000’ is an attractive dwarf cultivar with red-tipped leaves and yellow flowers.

The rose cone flower or Isopogon formosus may have either an erect or spreading habit. The narrow leaves are prickly and are divided into short cylindrical segments. The flowers are a mauve-pink and appear in cone-like heads in winter and spring. This is a highly ornamental species which doesn’t appreciate summer humidity. It may grow to 1.5 metres high with a spread of slightly less.

Another bushy Isopogon from Western Australia is Isopogon latifolius. This is another that doesn’t cope well with summer humidity. It has large, terminal, purple-pink flower heads and broad, flat leaves. It makes an excellent cut flower. Pruning will encourage new growth and ensure a good crop of flowers in the following season.

Isopogon scabriusculus grows in gravelly heath areas of southern Western Australia. The thick, linear leaves are a grey-green. Abundant but small pink flower heads are produced in late winter through to spring. It is best suited to areas with dry summers.

Isopogon anethifolius is sometimes called the conebush or narrow-leafed drumstick. This dense shrub is endemic to eastern New South Wales. It may grow to 2 metres high and has upright branches and finely divided dark green leaves which appear as very narrow linear lobes. The flower heads are tightly packed and borne terminally mainly from August to November. Young foliage may have a reddish tinge. The decorative fruits reach 2.5cm in diameter. It is grown commercially for its stunning deep yellow flowers. Although of upright habit, dense bushy growth can be encouraged by pruning from an early age. It prefers a well-drained position, is resistant to frosts and will grow in seaside gardens if offered some protection from the worst of the elements.

Isopogons like full sun and light soil.  Good drainage is essential. Those species from Western Australia are best suited to areas which have winter rains. Most will tolerate light frosts. Seeds can be slow to germinate but the plants can be propagated by cuttings.