Growing Native Plants
The genus Philotheca includes some of the most attractive and most adaptable Australian plants in cultivation. This group of plants belongs to the family Rutaceae (which includes the citrus fruit trees). There are fifty-one taxa (species and sub-species) of Philotheca some of which were previously classified as species of Eriostemon. All have aromatic leaves.
Philotheca verrucosa is commonly called Fairy Waxflower or Bendigo Waxflower and has often been confused with P. obovalis. Confined to the Blue Mountains area near Sydney, P. obovalis has branchlets which are less warty than those of P. verrucosa and smaller, solitary flowers. P. verrucosa occurs naturally on poor stony ground and on dry hills in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. It is generally a small sprawling or upright shrub to 1.2 m often with arching branches. However, it has been recorded as growing to 2 m high in the Gippsland area of Victoria.
The branchlets of P. verrucosa have prominent glands, which give them a warty appearance. The aromatic leaves which are arranged alternately along the stems are smooth above and warty beneath and 6-15 mm long. The dainty white flowers are tinged with pink and produced at the end of the branches or in the leaf axils. The 5 petals are arranged in star-like fashion and the ten stamens enclose the pistil. The fruit consists of 5 segments, each containing one or two shiny black seeds which are ejected when the fruit ripens and splits open.
Difficulty has been experienced in germinating seeds. P. verrucosa can be propagated from half-hardened tip cuttings taken in March/April. The strike rate is very variable; some produce roots quickly whilst others can remain static for some time. Better results have been achieved by removal of the growing tip from cutting material. Use of a rooting hormone may be advisable.
P. verrucosa is frost hardy and reasonably drought tolerant. In cultivation it grows best in well drained soil in a dry, sunny or semi-shaded position. Several double or multi-petalled forms of P. verrucosa have been found but the only one which has been registered as a cultivar is Philotheca 'J. Semmens' which has three layers of petals surrounding the stamens and ovary. This cultivar was found first on the property of the late J. Semmens in 1910. It grows to a height of 0.6 m by 0.6 m across and is often sparsely foliaged. This plant must be propagated by cuttings if its form is to be retained.
Text by Effie Mullins, ANBG (1989)
Name meaning: Philotheca verrucosa
Philotheca - from two Greek words meaning 'naked' and 'covering' or 'box', apparently referring to the way the stamens are fused at the base into a glabrous tube,
verrucosa - from Latin, 'covered with warts'.