Montag, 13. Januar 2014

Plant of the Day (January 13th, 2014)- Pherosphaera fritzgeraldii (F.Muell.) F.Muell. ex Hook.f.

This time, I want to take a closer look to another species from the Podocarpaceae, a family, which I'm connected with in a special way. This species is Pherosphaera fritzgeraldii (F.Muell.) F.Muell. ex Hook.f.. In English, this species is known as “Dwarf Mountain Pine” or “Blue Mountains Pine”. In German, the species is known as “Zwerg-Strobe”.

the old name

Please note: in many books, you will also find the name Microstobos fritgeraldii. This is the old name of the species, based on the old taxonomy. In some old literature, you'll also find the name Dacrydium fritzgeraldii. This is from a time, when the Podocarpaceae consisted of only a few different Genera.

1) Description

P. fritzgeraldii is a small, mostly inconspicuous conifer, which reaches only a maximum height of one meter (39.5 inches). It grows as ascending or creeping shrub, which can reach about two meters (78.5 inches) in diameter. As you may see on my pictures, the plant is richly branched. These branches are dropping.

P. fritzgeraldii - habitus

The leaves are only about 3 millimeters long. They are decurrent, so there is no petiole and the most part of the leaf-blade lays directly at the shoot. However, they are strongly keeled and the narrow tip of the leaf blade is curved to the outside. All leaves have a have white line of stomata on the inner sites. This inner site have a olive green color, while the outer site is a little bit darker. In both cases, the leaves are shiny. 

 P. fritzgeraldii - a closer look at the plant; you
cab see the keeled leaves with their curved tip

P. fritzgeraldii is dioecious, so we have male and female cones on different plants. In both cases, the cones are located at the end of the twigs. The male cones are brown, about 6 millimeters long and have a ovate shape. The female cones are smaller (only between 2 and 4 millimeters) but they have a more conspicuous, reddish color. Each female cone consists of 4 to 8 fertile scales.

P. fritzgeraldii - another look at the foliage;

As with the most Podocarpaceae, the roots of P. fritzgeraldii are covered with small root nodules, which acts as host for Endomycorrhiza.

2) Distribution

As the name suggest, P. fritzgeraldii is endemic to the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, Australia, where the species can be found between 650 and 1000 meters about sea level. It prefers moist, shady places on sand and grows only on the south-exposed slopes and cliffs in the zones of spray of waterfalls or mountains creeks within these mountains.

P. fritzgeraldii grows in dense shrubs

Botanists believe, that the species was widespread in many other parts of Australia in prehistoric times, but hot temperatures, drought and wildfires forced it to retreat to a such extreme limited habitat in order to avoid extinction.

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