Plant Profiles Dryandra

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The genus Dryandra is endemic to Western Australia. There are 90 odd species of these striking, evergreen shrubs ranging from low or prostrate shrubs to small bushy trees. They belong to the protea (Proteaceae) family and are related to, and closely resemble, the banksia. The majority of the Dryandras are 1 to 2 metres in height with a similar width.

They make an excellent cut flower and are highly decorative. The Dryandra is named after the Swedish botanist Jonas Dryander. The long, narrow leaves are lobed or sharply toothed but rarely smooth-edged. The rounded or conical flower heads may grow up to 100mm in diameter and appear in a rich variety of yellow, gold or bronze. The flowers tend to form on older branches and may be concealed among the leaves. The flowers produce much nectar and are highly attractive to birds. They are among the most showy and striking of the protea family. The larvae of some Lepidoptera species rely on the Dryandras as a food source.

Dryandras come from warm regions which experience winter rainfall and an extended dry summer season.  Many species are suited to container planting.  All are relatively frost tender. They need excellent drainage, full sun or part shade and dry neutral to acid soils. They will not tolerate high levels of nitrates or phosphates. In the garden they can be tip pruned while young and again lightly after each flowering.  This will help to keep them compact.

Dryandra Formosa, or Showy Dryandra, is found on the far southern coastal regions of Western Australia and is prized for its cut flowers. The serrated leaves are slender and dark green with prickly triangular lobes and pale undersides. The orange-yellow flowers appear mainly from September to November. It requires a well-drained position with full or partial sun. The flowers produce large amounts of nectar. It will tolerate fairly heavy pruning.

Dryandra polycephala or many-headed dryandra is endemic to Perth and the wheatbelt area. The leaves are very narrow with widely spaced, prickly lobes. The lemon-yellow flower heads appear along the branches in late winter and spring. It can grow to four metres high with a width of 2 to 3 metres.

Dryandra sessilis or Parrot Bush has a range north and south from Perth. The leaves grow to 5cm long with scattered, prickly lobes. The pale yellow flower heads appear from July to November. It will adapt to quite a wide range of conditions providing it is well-drained. It is a good food plant for native birds and is also popular as a nesting plant.

Dryandra squarrosa or Dark Dryandra is a small erect shrub with hairy new growth. The leaves are small, glossy, green and toothed. Numerous small yellow flower heads are crowded along the branches in late winter and spring.

The Oak-leaf Dryandra (Dryandra quercifolia) is endemic to the Esperance region on the south coast. The new growth is felt-like and an attractive bronze colour. The large flowers are an iridescent yellow and green surrounded by a collar of leaves. It is an excellent choice for cultivation and for cut flowers.

The Dryandra does not like humid and/or subtropical conditions so they have never thrived nor become popular on the east coast of the continent.

Planting a Dryandra or two in Western Australian gardens will ensure food and protection for our native birds as well as beautiful flowers and foliage for our enjoyment.

More about this author: Judy Evans

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