After a longer break, which was intended to give my last article about the orange and lemon a little bit more attention, it's time for a new “Plant of the Day” Article. This time, I want to show you a new exotic plant, which grows not wild in the northern hemisphere. This species is Callistemon phoeniceus Lindl. from the Mytraceae family. In English, this plant is known as “Lesser Bottlebrush” or “Fiery Bottlebrush” while in German, the species is known as “Purpurroter Zylinderputzer” (“purple silk-hat”).
C. phoeniceus - habitus
C. phoeniceus is a small tree or scrub, which can reach heights between 1 and 6 metres (3.3 to 19.7 feet). It grows upright but the branches are overhanging. The bark is grey and slightly textured while the leaves are narrow and laceolate. They are arranged in an alternating leaf-pattern and contain some essentials oils, which give them a aromatic smell. They have a darker green colour and are between 3 and 7 centimetres long.
C. phoeniceus - leaves, branches and fruits
The most distinctive feature of C. phoeniceus (and other species from the genus Callistemon) are the inflorescence, which are long spikes in the axillary of small bracts.
The actual flowers are rather inconspicuous with small crème-white petals and a similar looking calyx. However, the most interesting feature of the flowers are their long, fiery red filaments of the stamens, through which the whole inflorescence looks like a blazing red brush. This is also the reason for the name “bottlebrush”.
C. phoeniceus - inflorescence (f = filament; a = anther;
c = calyx; p = petal)
Flowering time is between November and December (springtime on the Southern Hemisphere) and a second time in January.
C. phoeniceus - fruit
The ripe fruits are hard, woody capsules with small seeds within. C. phoeniceus is a pyrophyte; a plant, which uses wildfires for spreading. The fruits remain at the plant until a wildfire destroy the vegetation around them. Without any competitors, the seeds can now sprout and re-colonize the burned areal. Pyrophytes are very common in hot regions, where wildfires are frequent events.
C. phoeniceus - bark
Like the most species from the genus Callistemon, C. phoeniceus is native to Australia. However, it's one of only two species, which are native in South West Australia (the other one is Callistemon glaucus (Bonpl.) Sweet). It grows on sandy soils on laterite and prefers moist but also well drained places. So, C. phoeniceus can be found e. g. at riversides or in swamps. The species s also a populare ornamental tree because it tolerates a fresh to cold climate.