Plant Profiles Lambertia

Lambertia plants are highly attractive to birds both for the nectar the flowers provide and as potential nesting sites. It is a small genus of some ten species, nine of which are endemic to Western Australia and one native to eastern New South Wales. The Lambertia genus belongs to the protea family Proteaceae. The species all consist of small to tall shrubs or small trees. The leaves have a spiky point. The flowers are clustered in a (usually) 7 flowered head, sometimes surrounded by colourful bracts. The narrow flowers are long and tubular. They may be red, orange or yellow. Following the flowers, woody fruits developed. When ripe, these split into two halves with each half containing a winged seed. The fruits may stay on the branches for some time.

Lambertia ericifolia is endemic to Western Australia. It may grow to 4.5 metres with a 2 metre spread. The small leaves are linear or narrow and lanceolate. It flowers through most of the year, bearing soft pink to orange flowers in clusters of 7 per bloom head.

Chittick is the common name given to Lambertia inermis. This tall shrub or small tree grows to 6 metres. It is native to the sandplains of Western Australia and is a multi-branched species with elliptical leaves. This species has two flower forms – one has pale yellow flowers and the other orange-red. Flowers appear from winter to spring. The fruits are smooth.

Lambertia multiflora has traits common to several other species. Like Lambertia formosa, L.multiflora is also called the honeyflower or honeysuckle. It is found both north and south of Perth. And like Lambertia inermis, it has two forms. The northern form has pink to pale red flowers while the southern population has yellow flowers. It is a small shrub with narrow leaves. The flowers grow to 35mm long, in heads of up to 19 (though more usually 7) individual blooms. The fruits are smooth but beaked.

Lambertia formosa is also called the honey flower or mountain devil. It is endemic to the area around Sydney and neighbouring Blue Mountains, New South Wales. The dark green leaves are whorled and up to 6cm long. The upper surface is green and the underneath hairy and whitish. The orange red to bright red, tubular flowers are surrounded by bracts. They appear on the stem tips from spring to summer and have a good supply of nectar making them a favourite with nectar-sipping birds. An added bonus for the birds is that the rigid foliage provides excellent nesting sites. The fruits are beaked and horned and about 18mm long. This species is resistant to frost and will grow in seaside areas if offered some protection.

Lambertias need well-drained, sandy soil in full sun. They are reasonably resilient as far as frost is concerned. New plants can be grown from cuttings, however seeds germinate readily. Allow the pods to dry out after removal from the plant before extracting and planting the seeds.