Tableland Mirbelia – a Rare Australian Native

Even though so much in the spring garden is clamouring for attention with big bright showy flowers, I thought I’d focus on a somewhat rare and little-known native plant, Mirbelia platyloboides.

This little Mirbelia is native to elevated areas of Australia’s East Coast on fast-draining sandstone based soils and forms an open groundcover/prostrate shrub. Like so much of the lesser-known flora of the world, it is in decline.

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Close up of Mirbelia platyloboides

The flowers of M. platyloboides are small: less than 15mm / ½” across.

In my garden it grows on an embankment in the ‘bushland’ area that separates the public road from the private easement that allows my neighbours to get to their houses: and gives me the dubious pleasure of owning four ‘hell-strips’.

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Standing on the public road looking back to the easement and house: M. platyloboides is in the foreground

With so much mess to tackle in the main garden I haven’t touched this area since I moved in…although now that an El-Niño is bearing down on Australia (meaning less rain), I won’t do anything with this area yet.

But I am excited at the prospect.

The disconnection from the house and the rest of the garden that the easement brings is very unusual in a smaller garden – and allows me the opportunity to do something totally different from other garden areas around the house – and it will have a lot of Australian natives…but that is for much, much later posts!

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Though M. platyloboides flowers are quite intense up close, at standing height, they are much more subtle

M. platyloboides flowers late winter/early spring and has usually gone over by mid October. Its flowers are similar to the (only slightly) more well known Dillwynias.

This winter it survived a lot of severe frosts (the lowest being -10°C / 14°F as well as over 40 mornings of about -5°C / 23ºF) and many days where the temperature didn’t get above freezing and it was undamaged by all of heavy snowfalls and ice.

It is a member of the tough Fabaceæ family and bears the typical pea-flower. The small leaves have the most wonderful texture similar to reptilian skin.

Mirbelia does not tolerate clay and needs excellent drainage. Coming from cool areas, it dislikes heat and humidity, but could probably survive in the higher suburbs of Sydney, Melbourne or Adelaide as long as it had afternoon shade.

This is a very difficult plant to get hold of, but if you are an Australian native plant enthusiast, seeds can be purchased online. To germinate them, you must replicate a light, quick bushfire (I do this by lightly sowing the seeds in a large clay/terracotta/concrete pot, cover thinly with soil and then a thick layer of Eucalyptus leaves and then set fire to it).

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Close-up of leaves and flowers

But for something quite unusual, it is well worth the effort, and, once planted needs virtually no maintenance apart from an occasional light trim after flowering.

Happy Gardening 🙂

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48 thoughts on “Tableland Mirbelia – a Rare Australian Native

  1. A treat to come then with the new area!? It does sound very adventurous to recreate a mini bush fire, but I suppose it is like me refrigerating or freezing some seed to help germination, just seems more dangerous.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh yes – but not for a while. That area is about 40m away from the nearest tap…so I won’t be carting water for new plants all summer!
      The fire ‘part isn’t too bad. I just make sure it’s done well away from anything that might catch fire 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve heard of called Egg and Bacon as well; this one has a tough outer casing that needs heat to break it. But because the seed is small, putting it in the oven would risk the actual seed inside. So, the only thing to do is release the inner pyromaniac…at least it’s for a good cause!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. patsquared2 says:

    You live with such exotic flora and fauna….and birds! Beautiful flower and looks like a good plant for ground cover, too. I have a hill out front that has been taken over by bittersweet vine…I haven’t thought of anything but destruction for awhile. Maybe I’ll try to think of a way to reclaim the hill and plant something that will look as beautiful as your mirabelia.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes – they can survive for a very long time as they have a dry, tough outer casing. Some people use an oven to try and crack the casing, but for plants whose seeds aren’t big enough to withstand a slow fire, then this method is a little safer for the seed inside

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Some of our pine trees can only be germinated by fire. The cones stay closed and don’t release their seeds until there’s a forest fire. I never considered the possibility of starting even a small fire. Amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Cynthia – much of Australia’s flora require either fire (to crack the seed casing) or if the seed is softer, then the chemicals from released from the smoke, to trigger germination. This is in addition to the normal, light, moisture and warmth that all other plants need. I guess it is because the soil in Australia is so poor and the Eucalyptus trees are so hungry, that waiting until the seed is covered in nutrient-rich ash from after a forest fire is a good way to ensure that the plant has sufficient food for the first couple of years.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I like the plant but the seed germination technique puts me off a bit. In our high fire risk area, my neighbors would probably report me! The flowers remind me of another plant I tried here, Chorizema ‘Bush Flame.’ Unfortunately, it didn’t do well but I may try it again in a pot to ensure it gets both the drainage and extra summer irrigation it needs.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Our Aussie plants are always the entertainers aren’t they? Excellent bang for your buck. You get the kudos of getting the difficult little buggers to grow (horticultural kudos isn’t to be taken lightly) as well as the fun of being able to legitimately play with fire in the process. In my pre-horticulture days I called the entire genre of flowers that looked like this “egg and bacon”. It’s a lot more complicated now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is quite true. I haven’t had much luck with these seeds so far, only a handful germinated (and then all were eaten by slugs)…I’ll be giving it a go again once this batch of flowers turns to seed as it will be nice to increase the numbers in case something happens to the parent plant

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  6. I think it’s the first time I actually see a bit of your house, Matt, and it’s so pretty. Haven’t met this plant when I was in Australia but I always like to learn something about new and/or indigenous plants. Do tell us a bit more from time to time. Bet spring is on it’s way? Best wishes

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Here on Long Island we have a region of about 100,000 acres called the Pine Barrens and it is populated by the “fire loving” pitch pines that someone else mentioned. There were two major fires there in recent memory; one in 1995 which burned 7000 acres (from which the pines all recovered in 8 years) and a smaller one in 2012 burned about 2000 acres. New Jersey also has a Pine Barrens region which is even larger (over 1 million acres). Both ours and NJ’s sit atop our water supply which is a subterranean glacial aquifer and so the regions are protected.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Matt – that is an adorable little plant! I would consider myself lucky to have it in my garden. If I ever make it to Australia, I will talk you into showing me all your favorite native treasures. And perhaps share some pyrotechnical tips!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pretty! I like the contrast between the dark red and the yellow. Sounds like it would be hardy enough for me, though our periodic Arctic air masses might necessitate a covering of fir branches or something, since they usually arrive when there is no snow to protect plants. So many plants I like don’t like my clay soil, too.

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