Some new news… I was recently in discussion with a Tas Native Plant expert who had read this post and told me that this plant is in fact X. papillosum (not X. bicolor as I had concluded). There has recently been a review of the Xerochrysum genus (published Jan 2017 in “Nuytsia”) which can be found here. Many thanks to Mark Wapstra.
The paper states “The colour of the laminae of the involucral bracts remains the most obvious character that distinguishes X. papillosum from X. bicolor.” You can see in this photo that the bracts (white pointy petal-like structures) are white, whereas in X. bicolor they are yellow.
From “Tasmanian plant names unravelled” I learnt that the species name “papillosum” comes from the … “Latin papillosus (with papillae, small protuberances) alluding to the soft covering of hair-like papillae on the stems and leaves.”
In the family Asteraceae, the Xerochrysum species have undergone a number of name changes. They were previously known as Bracteantha and/or Helichrysum, and you will still find them listed under these names in older pubs.
On Maatsuyker Island, I had trouble positively ID’ing the species. It was not listed on the plant list I was given before I went to the island. There is not a lot of detailed keying information available and I suspect this is one genus that is not solidly nailed down..? The plants on the island have bright white (-not- pale yellow) phyllaries (the white bracts in the image above) when fully open, but in bud, the undersides are often tinged with pink. The disk flowers are bright yellow. The open flower head, or receptacle, measures approximately 4 cm across and 2 cm deep.
The leaves are long and narrow, up to 7 cm long and up to 12mm wide. They are very soft and flexible, and hairy! The underside of the leaf is paler green than the upper surface. The leaves are not as dense as on some common cultivar specimens. I measured one plant at about 38 cm tall. This is a photo of their habit. My conclusion is that the plants on the island are Xerochrysum bicolor but I am not 100% sure. This species is native to Tasmania where it is found in wetter habitats near the coast.
One of the identifying features of X. bicolor are fine barbs on the pappus (white furry bit on the end of the black seed pod, or achene). Here you can see the barbs on the pappus when the image is enlarged.
These everlastings were flowering when we arrived on the island in early December, and I was still recording and photographing flowers at the end of January. I only saw them on the track to the Red Shed, south of the “Tardis” (TV Repeater), i.e. west-facing before the track turned to the NE. Although this part of the island is more exposed, the plants occur in the damper parts of the track.
Tas Government DPIPWE site lists X. bicolor as rare under the Threatened Species Protection Act 1995. There is a marker on its distribution map for one of the islands in the vicinity of Maatsuyker Is. with text “>50 years” which I think means recorded over 50 years ago…. interesting.
Here are some photos of my graphite drawing-in-progress. Left, the whole composition; right, a close-up.