A Candle in the Wind

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Stackhousia monogyna

A Candle in the Wind

When you find one of these beauties, a Stackhousia monogyna, in our local bushland, it is easy to see why it was given its common name of “Candles.” These flowers do really glow with their brilliant white petals lighting up the area around them. They really want to be noticed! Even at night they make their presence felt by emitting a beautiful fragrance.

As with all flowers, the reason for existence is to produce the next generation. This involves pollination. Giving us pleasure is a wonderful
by-product.

Candles glow and perfume the air to attract moths, which flutter around and transfer pollen from the yellow stamens to the central style, thus beginning the miracle of forming seeds, which if the conditions are right, will ensure that we will continue to be delighted by these glorious pure white spikes of delicate flowers.

Candles belong to the genus Stackhousia which has fourteen species; thirteen of which are found in Australia. The other one lives in New Zealand.

Our Candles are found in sheltered forest sites along the entire east coast and in some inland areas. At last we have a botanical name that celebrates a botanist with modern Australian connections: John Stackhouse (1742-1819). He was particularly interested in seaweeds and built Acron Castle in Cornwall over-looking Stackhouse Cove.

Today you can stay in the castle for a holiday. The reviews on the internet are terrific. Like many botanists, he lived a long life and had many children. His descendants include Shirley Stackhouse OA, a well-known Australian gardening guru.

Sadly, Shirley died earlier this year, aged 92. She wrote a gardening column for the Sydney Morning Herald for more than thirty years and answered gardening questions every Saturday morning on 2UE in her radio program, ‘Over the Fence’. Her daughter Jennifer is continuing the family tradition having been the Editor of ‘Gardening Australia’ for many years. There must be a human gene for loving plants. The monogyna part of this plant’s scientific name is actually a mistake. It is Greek for having one carpel. The trouble is, modern botanists have found that there are actually three carpels fused together. It’s good to know that Botanists are humans after all!

You do not need special genes to enjoy this plant, but to find it in the Ulladulla Wildflower Reserve, you will need to wait at least until next Summer, when we hope it will reappear following our recent fire.

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Contact: Philip Smith-Hill
E: smith-hill9@bigpond.com

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