Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Anigozanthos manglesii

Anigozanthos--or "Kangaroo Paws"--is a genus endemic to the southwestern corner of Australia, where a Mediterranean-type climate and nutrient-poor, acidic soils have lead to the development of a scrubby vegetation called Kwongan. Kwongan resembles the Fynbos vegetation of South Africa, which occurs under similar conditions, and the two vegetation types share quite a few of their characteristic plant families. Anigozanthos is part of the Haemodoracaeae or Bloodroot Family (no relation to the North American wildflower Sanguinaria, which is also called Bloodroot), which is represented in South Africa by the genera Wachendorfia, Dilatris and others. The Haemodoraceae have generally hairy inflorescences of flowers that are dorsiventrally symmetrical (can be divided into mirror images by only a single plane) or asymmetrical, and roots that are often brightly pigmented, and sometimes blood red.

The most common Kangaroo Paws in cultivation are A. flavidus and hybrids that incorporate A. flavidus, which are all relatively robust and vigorous plants. Anigozanthos manglesii is more finicky, requiring stronger sun to grow properly, and reportedly being very susceptible to a fungal infection called Ink Spot Disease, which fortunately doesn't seem to have made it into the botanical collections at UConn. The plants pictured here are flowering for the first time at UConn, at about two years old from seed collected near Perth, Australia. They do well in full sun in a cool greenhouse, in an acidic, peat-based soil that is allowed to surface-dry between waterings. Potted Anigozanthos plants grow and flower best when given a regular dose of dilute high-nitrogen fertilizer, but intense light and a cool winter growth period are probably the more critical requirements for success.