Flower of the week: Anigozanthos

When I name drop anigozanthos stems, I tend to get a resounding ‘anigo-what?’.

No I’m not mumbling about about a girl called Annie who goes to Zakynthos on holiday. Believe it or not I’m talking about a flower that’s baffling in both name and floral nature. Try saying anigozanthos right first time. Impossible. How about when it’s broken down in bitesize syllables; a-ni-go-zan-thos? Still needs practice.

Name aside, let’s take the plant itself. When you’re asked to conjure up an image of a flower, I can almost guarantee that anigozanthos stems aren’t what come to mind.

Anigozanthos stems
Image credit

They’re a bizarrely un-flowerlike flower that look more like antipodean animal parts than flowers. And that’s exactly why I love them.

 

Down right dedication from the down under nation 

You may already know that anigozanthos are native to Australia. The South Western coast to be exact. As Dorothy once quite rightly said, there’s no place like home. When anigozanthos is concerned, the Aussies’ couldn’t agree more!

Anigozanthos is so cherished that, in 1960 it was proclaimed the floral emblem of the South West in Australia. Seeing as Australia has 24,000 native plant species, that’s a pretty big deal.

Aussie emblem with anigozanthos stems
The official Western State emblem. Created on 17th March, 1969. Image credit

And if that’s not proof enough of this flower’s divinity, how about its grand appearance on the Aussie 5p postage stamp in 1962.

Image credit.
Image credit.

Talk about making your mark, how about putting a stamp on it! Or it on a stamp should we say …

It’s no wild coincidence that the national flower resembles the national marsupial. Unsurprisingly Anigozanthos’ common name is kangaroo paw.

The flowers may be hairy but they're certainly prettier! Image credit
The flowers may be hairy but they’re certainly prettier! Image credit

Two natural-come-national triumphs representing pure, native Aussie-ness.

The paw’s afoot!

Bouncing back a century or two, along came the French.

In the early 1800’s, French explorer Nicolas Baudin brought Aussie anigozanthos seeds back to Europe. This sparked cultivation of the kangaroo’s floral impersonator.

Nicolas Baudin, the man to thank. Image credit
Nicolas Baudin, the man to thank. Image credit

Centuries later, we get to benefit from that journey with an abundance of anigozanthos stems, without the sea-sickness and terrible diet of a 19th century expedition. Thank god. And Nicolas Baudin.

Maybe that’s why anigozanthos stems featured on a stamp – to remind the epistolary world where the plants’ roots originally grounded themselves.

 

A namesake just for fun and gamesake

So anigozanthos stems are related to the kangaroo in looks, location and labelling. It’s even hairy like a paw! The flowers span out irregularly like variably sized toes and the flowers are tiny yet intriguing.

I wonder what we Brits would have called this beautiful tubular feat of flowerfulness if it cropped up on British soil first. Foxes foot, house cat claws, pigeon toes?

house cat's claws look like anigozanthos stems
Image credit

It doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

But it did get me thinking … What other flowers are out there that so perfectly fit their animal attribute names like anigozanthos stems do as kangaroo paw?

So I came up with a few that I think are simply spot on:

Guara lindheimeri – Whirling Butterfly Bush

Pop these in a windy spot to see them whirling. Image credit
Pop these in a windy spot to see them whirling. Image credit

 

Cuphea llavea – Bat face flower

There's no mistaking these flying mammal flowers. Image credit
There’s no mistaking these flying mammal flowers. Image credit

 

Lilium tigrinum – Tiger lily

More spotted than striped but just as fierce. Image credit
More spotted than striped but just as fierce. Image credit

Matteuccia struthiopteris – Ostrich Fern 

Shake your fern feathers for this one! Image credit
Shake your fern feathers for this one! Image credit

 

Enough of that silliness and back to the paws:

Anigozanthos stems for the onset of Autumn

This arrangement replicates the turn of seasons – fiery red hot like Australia’s oncoming summer yet autumnal like our trees here in the UK.

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So, whether you you’ve chosen to embrace the chilly or the chili kind of temperature from the arrangement, you’re in for a treat (no tricks) either way.

 

Right then, what are you waiting for? Certainly not the British summer so give us a go for £22 a pop!