Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sturt's Desert Pea

Swainsonia formosa
 Sturt's Desert Pea

Over this summer there has been some good rain over the central and outback parts of the country. The most dramatic pictures of this rare event were those of the waterfalls cascading down the sides of Uluru, Ayer's Rock. All this rain can only mean one thing ,a great year for desert wildflowers. My favourite central Australian plant is the Sturt's Desert Pea, a plant which many coastal gardeners try to grow without much success. It has adapted to desert conditions by developing a long taproot which goes a long way underground in search of water.This makes it difficult to keep very long in a pot and be sold in nurseries. Very occasionally grafted specimens become available but the coastal humidity can make these very short lived.
Recently at a craft show, I saw it used as a decorative motif on a cloth applique work.This is pictured below.

Sturt's Desert Pea is also the floral emblem of South Australia.The botanical painting below is by Alison Ashby, who devoted her life to preserving as well as illustrating the wildflowers of her home State. Some 1400 of her flower painting are in the collection of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens.
Sturt's Desert Pea by Alison Ashby
Miss Alison Ashby (1901-1987)Awarded the Australian Natural History Medallion in 1975


  1. Ian, I see a science fiction story developing here... The Sturt's Desert Pea, originally from the planet Mars, came to Australia in search of water hoping to drain the Great Barrier Reef.

    Seriously, they are a beautiful desert flower that looks a bit like aliens.

  2. I have always wanted to see this rare flower, but so far I have not seen it in any garden show. Now I know the reason why.The applique work is very creative.Interesting post. Thank you.

  3. Great blog ... this is one plant I've always wanted to grow! I've seen them in their natural home and was taken aback with their beauty.

    Fabulous painting by Alison Ashby and it's nice to see the real person as well.

  4. I love your new header!