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Taxonomy stuff: Phebalium daviesii
Common name/s: Davies' Wax Flower, St. Helen's Wax Flower, Tasmanian Federation Flower
From: endemic to Tasmania
Status: considered Critically Endangered in Australia (in 2008 less than 20 individuals remained in the wild), not listed in IUCN

Found: Try the Tasmanian Habitat Plants nursery. The Tasmanian Cradoc Nursery doesn't currently have it in stock.

Short and Simple -
Habit: Shrub
Colours: Dark green, glossy foliage, and a profusion of pale yellow or white flowers in Spring.
Height/Width: 0.6 to 1.5 M wide x 1 to 2.5 metres high.
Suitable: Moist well-drained location, part-shade or part-sun.

The Davies' Wax Flower is endemic to Tasmania, and is currently being cultivated in some nurseries for garden purposes, because it is Critically Endangered in Tasmania (where it is found exclusively on the North-East tip). It has the rare 'honour' of being presumed extinct in the wild until it was rediscovered in 1990, where - at the time - only 40 plants existed. Due to consistent flooding, 20 remained in 2008.

Where do I find it? Where do I grow it?

It is primarily found in eucalyptus forest in the heath understorey, and prefers coarse, granitic-based, nutrient poor soils. This makes it suitable for substrates that range from well-drained but moist sand, gravel, granitic soils, and probably not so suitable for clay-pans. It can withstand moderate frosts, though not being alpine in origin it won't do well in seasonally snowy environments. Due to it's place of origin (Tasmania), and the lack of hybridisation onto a more diverse or vigorous root stock, it's not recommended for arid or semi-arid regions. It's actually quite well-suited for pool planting (as it does like to live near the water), to increase the likelihood of a humid and wet environment. This plant likes to be sheltered from the elements.

How do I grow it?

You'll not be able to purchase mature species. This is generally recommended for most plants, but especially Australian ones. Those purchased in seed-tubes, or small pots, usually haven't been in there long enough to develop root issues, and are less likely to have become pot-bound. The Davies' Wax Flower responds well to tip pruning, which - on the converse side - means it sometimes doesn't recover from vigorous pruning. It is a plant to trim often and lightly, rather than once a year and very heavily. The plant is at risk of Phytopthora cinnamomi (known in Australia as 'root rot' or 'dieback'), a fungal infection. As with all Australian plants susceptible; make sure you get your mulch from reputable sources, and always wash your shoes, hands and clothes after walking through areas of land infected with dieback. It is very difficult to cultivate from seed, and does not self-pollinate, or respond well to germination trials. That said, it propagates very well from cuttings (a strike rate of about 60%).

When does it flower? What does it look like?

Specifically between late-September and mid-January. Seed develops from January to February. The flowers are white, cream or pale yellow, five-petalled, and very prettily clustered together. The yellow stamens protrude from the flower, and are twice as long as the petals itself, making it striking when in flower. The leaves are dark-green and glossy on the top, and silvery underneath.

Does it attract things?

Well, all plants attract pests to a point. But it also attracts insects, birds, and butterflies. No specifics unfortunately, due to the rare nature of this plant.

What else should I know?

- This is a really awesome cut flower, for vases, wreaths and bouquets. Cut flowers last approximately 2 weeks, and last 4-6 weeks on the shrub itself.

- This is suited for pot planting; especially if you're in drier states and need to keep closer control of it's environment.

- Prefers acidic soils, and a slow-release phosphorus fertiliser (in Australia this is fairly easy, just get the ones that indicate they are 'native plant food.' Here we use Osmocote slow-release for native plants). Avoid using compost or animal dung as fertiliser; though a general woodchip mulch is fine.

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