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Xanthostemon chrysanthus, is still quite unknown outside its native country, and is pretty hard to find. This is a very desirable garden plant for warmer climates. The glorious, dense flower heads are well displayed at branches ends and are bright yellow with stunningly extended stamens reminiscent of a Bottlebrush. Flowers are sweetly fragrant and atract butterlies and hummingbirds. Bloom time in Northern hemisphere lasts from winter through early spring, which makes it especially valuable. In sub-tropical and tropical areas it flowers reliably and often within 2-3 years from seed. New leaves start out red, contrasting beautifully with older, lance shaped glossy green foliage. In native rainforest environment the tree can grow up to 40-50 ft, however in gardens it may reach only 15-20 ft. It responds well to pruning and can be easily shaped into a shrub, hedge or screen with annual pruning. Golden Penda is a favorite of birds and butterflies; it makes a good cut flower. The plant is pretty hardy, tolerates dry soil and requires almost no watering once established; however it will thrive providing moist rich soils. It can also take light frosts.
The genus name Xanthostemon comes from Greek xanthos - yellow, and stemon - a thread or stamen. The species name chrysanthus comes from Greek chrysos - gold and anthos - a flower. This plant is known as Junjum among aboriginal Australians, its hardwood used for swords, spear points and digging sticks.
Xerochrysum bracteatum - excellent in dried arrangements, strawflower is also pretty in the garden. It grows as a woody or herbaceous perennial or annual shrub up to a metre (3 ft) tall with green or grey leafy foliage. Golden yellow or white flower heads are produced from spring to autumn; their distinctive feature is the papery bracts that resemble petals.
Xerochrysum bracteatum has proven very adaptable to cultivation. It was propagated and developed in Germany in the 1850s, and annual cultivars in a host of colour forms from white to bronze to purple flowers became available.
This is an old fashioned, but very rewarding garden plant. Zantedeschia is named after Professor Zantedeschi, probably Giovanni Zantedeschi, 1773-1846, an Italian physician and botanist. The flowers are faintly scented and this attracts various crawling insects and bees which are responsible for pollinating the flowers. The spathe turns green after flowering and covers the ripening berries. It rots away when these are ripe and the succulent yellow berries attract birds, which are responsible for seed dispersal. The rhizome is large and eaten by wild pigs and porcupines and the ripe fruit enjoyed by birds. Raw plant material causes swelling of the throat because of microscopic, sharp calcium oxalate crystals. The leaves are used as a poultice and a treatment for headaches. May be used as a marginal plant along streams, or on the edge of a pond. Plant in partial shade if there is no permanent water. It can be planted as a foliage plant in deep shade under trees but will not flower well in this position. It is fast growing and likes very rich, well-drained conditions. It is an excellent cutflower and lasts a long time in water. Nowadays there are other forms of this species which will enliven an old theme. There is also an attractive form with leaves spotted white. Requires consistently moist soil.
Various members of the genus may bloom spring only or repeat and continue into autumn, often a few days after rainstorms thus one of the common names, Rain Lily. Most are spring or summer flowering.
Cultivation from seed is easy in this group. Seeds are papery and can be floated but they sprout very easily sown under just a thin covering of sowing medium. Sow the seeds in a well-drained mix and keep in a warm place. The seedlings will grow well in warm weather and respond well to fertilizer. As with any papery seeded amaryllids, these have a relatively short viability period.
Zephyranthes pulchella - Showy Zephyrlily - is found in the coastal prairies and wet roadsides of eastern Texas and Gulf Coast Louisiana. The leaves grow through the winter and spring and die off in summer; flowering occurs in autumn. Leaves are linear and sedge-like and flowers are golden yellow. Pulchella means "pretty". These spectacular rain lilies growing in the highway medians near Refugio, Texas, on the east coast of that state. The glossy green leaves serve as a nice foil to the bright yellow flowers that are held just atop the foliage. The vigorously multiplying clumps flower for us from late summer into fall.
Zephyranthes flowers are very similar to Habranthus flowers and both are called rain lilies. Habranthus flowers point upward BUT at an angle and have unequal stamens, and Zephyranthes flowers point straight up and have equal stamens. Zephyranthes flowers tend to be star shaped and Habranthus have somewhat irregular flowers. Additionally, the seeds of Habranthus are slightly winged (and thicker).