Overview of Australian Scaevola Species

The genus Scaevola belongs to the family Goodeniaceae. There are nearly 100 species which come from Australia, the Malay Archipelago and islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. There are around 70 species endemic to Australia. Scaevolas appear as shrubs, subshrubs (small shrubs but not very woody at the base) and perennials. Many of the species act as groundcovers. The small leaves are hairy and often succulent. The stems are short and may be brittle. From mid-winter on, the foliage is covered with fan-shaped flowers which remain for some time. The flowers may be white or varying shades of blue.

Scaevola aemula or fairy fan-flower grows to only 15cm and is an evergreen perennial from southern and eastern Australia. It generally has a prostrate habit. The oblong leaves are toothed and the flowers quite distinctive with their pale mauve-blue colouring and fan shape. Flowering occurs from early spring to late summer.

There are several cultivars that have been developed from this species. Two of the more vigorous and upright varieties are Blue Wonder (cool blue flowers), New Wonder, and Purple Fanfare (profuse display of large flowers through most of the year but susceptible to extremes – either too much or too little – moisture).

Mauve Clusters (mauve-pink flowers) is another cultivar which has a prostrate habit and spreads to 2 metres. It forms a dense groundcover with bright green leaves and profuse clusters of small, fan-shaped, mauve flowers from September to March. It is a quick growing plant which is a good choice either in garden beds or in containers. It may sucker lightly.

Scaevola albida (pale fan-flower) is also a prostrate form found in southern and eastern Australia. The stems and foliage are lightly felted and the leaves are toothed and oval. It has small flowers throughout most of the year. The fan-shaped flowers may be white or blue.

Scaevola calendulacea has the common name of dune fan-flower. It has a prostrate habit and occurs naturally in southern and eastern Australia. It is a perennial with bright green leaves which are shiny and succulent. It has blue flowers through most of the year and these are followed by small, succulent, bluish purple fruits.

Scaevola hookeri is a ground-hugging perennial with fleshy oval leaves. It flowers in summer, bearing small, white flowers along the stems.

Scaevola humilis is a prostrate to shrubby perennial endemic to the Northern Territory, Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia. The leaves are bright green and oval in shape. Sprays of mauve-blue to light purple flowers appear through most of the year. This species is a good choice for a sunny rock garden.

Scaevolas prefer full sun and freely draining soil. They are a good choice for seaside gardens as they will tolerate salty winds. However they will not tolerate frosts.