A.M. Harris & B.L. Rye, A re-assessment of Verticordia plumosa
The journal of the Western Australian Herbarium
Published online 9 May 2013
A re-assessment of the varieties recognised in
Verticordia plumosa (Myrtaceae: Chamelaucieae)
Anne M. Harris
and Barbara L. Rye
Swan Coastal Branch, Department of Environment and Conservation,
Western Australian Herbarium, Department of Environment and Conservation,
Corresponding author, email: Barbara.Rye@dec.wa.gov.au
Harris, A.M. & Rye, B.L. A re-assessment of the varieties recognised in Verticordia plumosa
(Myrtaceae: Chamelaucieae). Nuytsia 23: 163–170 (2013). The seven varieties of Verticordia plumosa
(Desf.) Druce are re-assessed in the light of recent collections. Verticordia plumosa var. pleiobotrya
A.S.George is reduced to a synonym of V. plumosa var. brachyphylla (Diels) A.S.George. A key and
distribution maps are provided for the six remaining varieties, two of which have conservation priority.
F.Rudolphi) Arn. of Myrtaceae tribe Chamelaucieae DC. Its type species is the extremely variable
needed further study. Four of the varieties are widespread and known from numerous populations
in the south-west of Western Australia. The other three, var. ananeotes A.S.George, var. pleiobotrya
A.S.George and var. vassensis A.S.George, are restricted to a strip along the west coast between Perth
and Augusta. These three varieties have conservation priority (Smith 2012), making it particularly
important that their delimitation is clear.
Recent surveys of V. plumosa var. pleiobotrya populations have revealed greater morphological variation
more common and widespread var. brachyphylla (Diels) A.S.George. In this paper, var. pleiobotrya
is reduced to synonymy and the other six varieties are assessed to determine how distinctive they are
Published descriptions, keys and illustrations
Brief descriptions and a key to the seven varieties of V. plumosa were given in George (1991: 353–354).
The same key was included in George and Pieroni (2002), with some additional notes and also beautiful
colour illustrations of all the varieties. In these publications, var. ananeotes was distinguished from
the other six varieties in being lignotuberous, while var. vassensis and var. pleiobotrya were described
as having narrower sepals and petals than all the other varieties.
In George (1991), three of the varieties of V. plumosa—var. plumosa, var. incrassata A.S.George and
var. vassensis—were depicted as being geographically separated on Map 37, although var. plumosa,
which is shown by solid, inverted triangles, was omitted from the caption. Map 44 showed var.
(Benth.) A.S.George, again as being geographically separated, while
the remaining two varieties were shown on Map 43 (var. pleiobotrya) and Map 39 (var. ananeotes)
respectively. Intermediates were noted between:
brachyphylla and var. incrassata (some var. incrassata specimens from Fitzgerald River
National Park having a tendency towards var. brachyphylla);
brachyphylla and var. vassensis (e.g. Darkin Reserve and Bowelling);
Maps in George and Pieroni (2002) showed a greater overlap in the ranges of the varieties, partly as
a result of the greater number of specimens available by that time, and by 2012 the distribution maps
of the varieties in FloraBase (Western Australian Herbarium 1998–) showed even greater overlaps.
being intermediates between:
i.e. Verticordia plumosa var. ananeotes × vassensis, a name which also appears on FloraBase;
brachyphylla and var.
(Fitzgerald River National Park);
brachyphylla and var. plumosa (Mt Frankland area).
Of particular concern in the above list is the large number of intermediates recorded involving the
rare V. plumosa var. vassensis, with some of the intermediates occurring far outside the recorded
range of the variety.
Cochrane et al. (2001) measured seed production and germination rates in the three rare varieties of
in February 1995, was made to a much larger population of the non-lignotuberous var. pleiobotrya,
which had a much higher seed set (24%) and a higher germination rate (72%) from a similar-sized
sample of seeds. Five populations of the other non-lignotuberous variety, var. vassensis, were visited
between February 1997 and February 1999; this taxon had a low seed set (7.7%) and an intermediate
germination rate (46%) was obtained from 176 seeds. Hence, var. vassensis may be the most at risk
of the three varieties since it is unable to regenerate from a lignotuber and also appears to have a low
Andrew Crawford collected fruiting samples from two known populations of var. pleiobotrya in
December 2007. One of us, Anne Harris, collected specimens from two other known populations in
the specimens from the Swan Coastal Plain housed under these two varietal names were compared in
February 2012 there appeared to be no consistency in the determinations. Alex George (pers. comm.)
pleiobotrya, which he still considered to
had increased the morphological variation known within it.
As can be seen from Table 1, the greater range of variation now known for the characters previously
considered to separate var. pleiobotrya from var. brachyphylla means that there is a considerable
overlap in each of them. Even when measurements were taken only from the few specimens known
by 1991, these characters were found to be more variable than recorded in George (1991), with some
overlap in each character. As there are now no reliable characters available to distinguish the two
varieties, the decision has been made to reduce var. pleiobotrya to a synonym of var. brachyphylla.
Among the large number of recent collections from populations of V. plumosa within the mapped
range of var. vassensis
other varieties, var. ananeotes, var. brachyphylla and var. plumosa. Outside this area, in the Darling
narrow to broad
narrow to broad
Table 1. Comparison of the morphological characters as recorded in George (1991) for two varieties
of Verticordia plumosa with the current range of measurements recorded from the more numerous
specimens now available on the Swan Coastal Plain. Note that the methods used to obtain the
measurements in 2012 were different from those used in 1991 in that only the longest, fully mature
peduncles were measured on each specimen and only the longest, i.e. outermost, sepals were measured.
meant that the specimens labelled as intermediate with var. vassensis are now a good match for var.
Type material was examined at NSW and PERTH. All PERTH specimens were examined and
redeterminations made for a number of specimens; this led to reductions in the number of intermediates
recognised, the number of disjunct records for some of the varieties and the number of specimens that
from FloraBase (Western Australian Herbarium 1998–), on maps showing the version 6.1 Interim
Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia (IBRA) regions (Department of the Environment, Water,
Heritage and the Arts 2008).
Key to the varieties of
V. plumosa but will
1. Shrub with a small lignotuber and several to many simple or sparsely
branched stems, up to 0.4 m high. Longest leaves with a
blade 7–15(–20) mm long (Serpentine–Busselton) ................................................................ var. ananeotes
1: Shrub without a lignotuber, often bushy, up to 1.5 m high.
Longest leaves with a blade 2–10(–14) mm long
rarely pale pink (S of Stirling Ra.–Cape Arid NP) ............................................................var.
deep pink, rarely white
(Marvel Loch– Fitzgerald River NP–Scadden) .................................................................var. incrassata
Sepals 1.8–3.5(–4) mm long
branchlets corymbose. Occurring in winter-wet sites including
depressions (Busselton area) .............................................................................................var. vassensis
4: Peduncles (2–)4–12 mm long. Sepals 2.3–4 mm long.
short lateral branchlets, or if corymbose then occurring on granite
Occurring on granite (Wooroloo–far south-west–Cape Riche) ...................................... var. plumosa
mainly in low-lying sites, often in winter-wet depressions
(Arrowsmith River–Scott River–Fitzgerald River NP) .......................................... var. brachyphylla
, var. incrassata
and var. plumosa—with fairly large distributions in the south-west (Figures 1, 2). Although all four
show considerable morphological variation across their ranges, they can usually be distinguished fairly
readily from one another on morphological grounds as well as differing in their areas of occurrence
and habitat preferences. The enlarged circumscription of var. brachyphylla, as made formal below,
(F.Muell.) Domin, Mêm. Soc. Sci. Bohême 1921–1922, 2: 79 (1923), nom. illeg. Type: near Waeel,
Western Australia, October 1901, E. Pritzel s.n. (lecto: K n.v.,
A.S. George, Nuytsia 7: 356 (1991);
0.8 km south of Mundijong Road, west of Mundijong, Western Australia, 7 November 1986, A.S. George
16902 & E.A. George (holo: PERTH 01886851; iso: AD n.v., CANB n.v., MEL n.v., NSW 542676,
of Byford (Population 6), 20 Dec. 2007, A. Crawford ADC 1732 (PERTH); Bullsbrook Nature Reserve,
5 Nov. 2003, R.M. Evans 45 (PERTH); Mundijong Rd, 200 m W of Pure Steel Lane, 14 Dec. 2011,
A.M. Harris AH 203 (PERTH); Boundary Rd, Kenwick, W side of road, 1998, F. Obbens FO 524/98
(PERTH); Canning River East Branch, c. 14 km direct line ESE of the Canning Dam, 7 Nov. 2009,
River National Park (Figure 1A). Occurs mainly in low-lying sites, often in winter-wet depressions.
Range is cited above. George (1991) noted that plants on the coastal plain, which now include those
previously placed in var. pleiobotrya, tend to have longer, more slender leaves and peduncles than
those from northern and inland localities. This still holds true for the leaves but not for the peduncles.
of the others.
Although V. plumosa var. pleiobotrya is no longer formally recognised, it would be worth preserving
the full range of morphological variation found in the V. plumosa complex on the Swan Coastal Plain,
both in natural populations and in cultivation.
Figure 1. Distribution maps for varieties of Verticordia plumosa. A – var. ananeotes ( ) and var.
Figure 2. Distribution maps for varieties of Verticordia plumosa. A – var. incrassata
( ); B – var. plumosa
Both of the uncommon varieties of V. plumosa—var. ananeotes and var. vassensis—are apparently
being maintained in cultivation to some degree, as they were included in the plant list for the
Friends of Kings Park plant sale held on 3 November 2012.
Western Australian Flora (Smith 2012); it has a restricted range (Figure 1A) and there are fewer
collections of it than of any of the other varieties. It is apparently unique in having a lignotuber,
and its leaves tend to be longer than in all the other varieties. Although var. ananeotes appears to
be distinctive, it needs further study in the Ruabon area, where it apparently comes into contact
with at least one of the non-lignotuberous varieties, to determine whether it interbreeds and
intergrades with non-lignotuberous variants or maintains its distinctiveness.
Verticordia plumosa var. vassensis is also listed as Threatened under DEC Conservation Codes
for Western Australian Flora (Smith 2012) and appears to have the smallest range of any of the
long; however, all specimens currently housed under this variety have sepals 1.8–2.8 mm long.
Separation of var. vassensis from var. brachyphylla is in question now that var. brachyphylla
includes specimens with sepals down to 2.2 mm long. However, there does appear to be a more
vassensis is considered worth maintaining as a distinct variety, for now.
The whole V. plumosa complex certainly needs further investigation, especially in the far south-
west where var. vassensis and three other varieties apparently overlap in range.
collected in the current study matched his concept of V. plumosa var. pleiobotrya, Mike Hislop
for his advice, and the staff at NSW for access to their type material.
Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (2008). Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation of
html [accessed 26 April 2013].
threatened Western Australian Verticordia (Myrtaceae). Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia 84: 103–110.
Smith, M.G. (2012). Threatened and Priority Flora list for Western Australia. (Department of Environment and
Conservation: Kensington, Western Australia.)
Western Australian Herbarium (1998–). FloraBase—the Western Australian Flora. Department of Environment and