Spiny-head Mat-rush, Basket Grass
Lomandra longifolia (Spiny-head Mat-rush or Basket Grass) is native Australia wide except for the Northern Territory and Western Australia. A member of the Xanthorrhoeaceae family, it can grow in a range of sandy soils, in swamps and wet places to the montane zone on banks of creeks, rocky hillsides, cliffs and open forests.
L. longifolia is a perennial, rhizomatous herb. Leaves are glossy green, shiny, firm, flat. They can grow from 40cm up to 1m long and 8-12mm wide and are usually taller than the flowering stem. Leaf bases are broad with yellow, orange or brownish margins and the tips of the leaves are prominently toothed.
The inflorescence is usually a panicle of clusters of sessile flowers. Each cluster has a sharp, slender, straw-colored bract at its base, which gives it a dense spike-like structure. The inflorescence is usually about half the leaf length (500mm) and individual flowers are about 4mm long. Flowers of L. longifolia are scented and dioecious, with the female flower often a little bit longer or larger than the male flower. The heavy-smelling nectar on flowers can attract pollinating beetles. Flowering in warm temperature (late winter/early spring), fruiting occurs 1-2 months after flowering.
The clustered flower head is always shown as brown seed capsules throughout the year. During the flowering period, sepals are shiny brown, thin and papery, while the petals are fleshy and creamy-yellow colored.
L. longifolia is suitable for growing indoors in containers as well as outdoors and requires moist soil for growth. However, its thick leaves and also the extensive root system help L. longifolia tolerate dryness. It can grow in a wide range of soil from light (sandy) to heavy (clay) soil. There is no special soil pH requirement and it can grow in semi-shaded area like light woodland or non-shaded area.
It is relatively easy to maintain L. longifolia. Moisture soil is required for growth of the plant, but it would not die out without watering. It is very high tolerant to dryness and does not have pest and disease.
L. longifolia propagates by seed or clump division. When the fruits are matured and turn brown, sow the seed in moist soil for 6 weeks in the greenhouse/outdoor. Clump division: by dividing the plant into half and plant them in moist soil indoor/outdoor.
There is not much cultivation limitation for this plant in Australia. L. longifolia is highly drought-tolerant but also can tolerate occasional flooding, withstand low temperature down to -7°C and succeeds in moist soil in Australia. However, the plant can die back when it is in a wet winter nor does it survive well in areas with cooler summers.
Aboriginal people use the leaves of L. longifolia to make strong nets and baskets, and they consume the base of L. longifolia leaves as food.
Text by Kate Tak Yee Ko (2007 Botanical Intern)
Name Meaning: Lomandra longifolia
Lomandra – from Loma- (Greek) meaning edge, border and aner, man, male, because of the bordered anthers of some species.
longifolia – from longi- (Latin) meaning long and -folia (Latin) meaning leaf.
New South Wales Department of Agriculture (1966) Flora of New South Wales. Xanthorrhoeaceae. No.34. pp.16
Stewart, A. (2004) Gardening Australia, Flora’s Native Plants a Definitive Guide to Australian Plants, Annuals and perennials ABC Books, Australia, p.72
Wrigley, J. and Fagg, M. (2003) Australian Native Plants - Cultivation, Use in Landscaping and Propagation, (5th edition), Australia, pp. 173-174
Morwell National Park Online. [Internet resources: http://morwellnp.pangaean.net/cgi-bin/show_species.cgi?find_this=Lomandra%20longifolia&image_size=0, accessed on 08/02/07]
Joe McAuliffe. Australian National Botanic Garden. Personal communication