Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Mountain Devil (Lambertia formosa)

The stunning Mountain Devil (Lambertia formosa) of New South Wales was among the first Australian plants to be brought into cultivation. James Lee and Lewis Kennedy grew it in their Vineyard Nursery, Hammersmith, for sale to wealthy European plant-lovers. The Empress Josephine was a client. Her Jardin de la Malmaison held one of the world's finest collections of Australian species. I photographed this specimen at the more modest Karwarra Gardens near Olinda in the Dandenong Ranges.



Of all the plants yet introduced from New Holland, that have hitherto flowered with us, this unquestionably takes the lead for beauty, considering the plant altogether. It is a hardy greenhouse plant, growing to the height of six or eight feet before it flowers; when the blossoms break from the ends of almost every branch. The seeds of this plant were among the first which arrived from Botany Bay, in the year 1788; when two varieties of it were raised by Messrs. Lee and Kennedy, at their nursery, who were fortunate enough to procure all the seeds which came home that season. This fine genus has received its title, (under the sanction of Dr. Smith, see the Linn. Trans. page 214, vol. 3.) from Aylmer Bourke Lambert, Esq. Fellow of the Royal and Linnæan Societies; a gentleman whose zeal for the advancement of the science is unbounded, and whose labours to that end, as well as his endeavours to render botany of universal benefit, by combining the useful with the pleasing (witness his work on the Cinchonas, or Jesuits' Barks) do him the greatest credit.
Henry Andrews (1797)
The Botanist's Repository for New and Rare Plants

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Overseas readers may also be interested in the seed pod - for which the common name:
http://www.anbg.gov.au/photo/apii/id/dig/4307

There are a couple more images in the anbg database.

Lambertia formosa pods were used in that star of the Blue Mountains tacky souvenir galaxy: the Mountain Devil pipecleaner figurine.
A quick search finds this very recent one on Flickr
http://flickr.com/photos/gramarye/2537052571/

No weekend trip to the Blue Mountains was complete without a kid getting a few mountain devils from the bush.
The tradition is now dead.

Hope this shows how some Australians can get weirdly fixated on elements of the biota.

d

Snail said...

d, I hadn't encountered the pipecleaner figures before. Thanks for that link. They truly are a sight. More of a sight, even, than ornaments made from sea shells. They even exceed Maryland blue crab carapaces painted with flags and pastoral scenes in their sight-ness. (I've just discovered these. They're mesmerising.)

And how the heck are you?

Anonymous said...

We're going good thanks host.
Not enough time to read online much these days.
Or maybe it's not enough excuse for such indulgence?

Good luck for 2009 and thanks for your contribution to the sum of actual fact online. And the funnies, a course.
d

Anonymous said...

"No weekend trip to the Blue Mountains was complete without a kid getting a few mountain devils from the bush."
Boy does that bring back memories..... My kids thought i was crazy when I told them about that. My brother and I always got a couple when we visited our aunt back in the 50s
greg