Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Lasiopetalum

I hadn't noticed Lasiopetalum before I went on a field trip to Portland in SW Victoria with a carload of botanists. (Now that's something that I can recommend. Pack up the vehicle with people who are specialists in an area about which you know next to nothing and take them somewhere new. It's wonderful! The only problem is everyone wants you to marvel at their darlings. But as plants don't to flit into a tree or scoot down a burrow as soon as you blink, it's not so bad.)

Although several species are cultivated, Lasiopetalum is a low-profile genus in nurseries. They're not show offs. The flowers are usually small and inconspicuous, hanging down among the leaves. You might notice them if you look carefully. It's the foliage that makes Lasiopetalum a favourite in my garden. (That and they are ridiculously easy to grow.)

Young leaves of Lasiopetalum are rust-coloured. As unfurl, they turn light green. Short hairs coat both surfaces of leaves. Those on the upper side are clear; those below rufous. Despite the appearance, the dense pile isn't velvety to the touch. (And the stems are quite brittle, as I discovered while trying to photograph the underside of the leaves. I wonder these plants strike from cuttings?)

But it wasn't until I examined the leaves under the dissecting microscope that I realised why they're not soft—the hairs are arranged in stellate clusters. When magnified, they look like little Sputniks.

Unfortunately, photographing them is beyond the capabilities of my digital compact. Another reason why I'll have to stay at work ... so I can afford a digital back for the SLR.

3 comments:

Shorty CreeKI said...

Pop them into a flat bed scanner ... miraculous! Next best thing to an electron microscope :)

sarala said...

Gorgeous leaves. Probably wouldn't make it in Chicago, though. I'll have to try the scanner trick.

Snail said...

I haven't tried the scanner, although one of our botanists used to do it. Mind you, I haven't got a scanner ...

Sarala, I'm determined now to find an Australian plant that will grow outdoors in Chicago. There must be something from Tasmania or the Centre that can cope with both a big freeze and a sweltering summer!