Nuytsia The journal of the Western Australian Herbarium 23: 163–170 Published online 9 May 2013 a re-assessment of the varieties recognised in

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A.M. Harris & B.L. Rye, A re-assessment of Verticordia plumosa 



The journal of the Western Australian Herbarium

23: 163–170                                                                             

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,

PO Box 459, Wanneroo, Western Australia 6065


Western Australian Herbarium, Department of Environment and Conservation,

Locked Bag 104, Bentley Delivery Centre, Western Australia 6983

Corresponding author, email:


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.


Verticordia DC. is a Western Australian genus belonging to the subtribe Chamelauciinae (DC. ex 

F.Rudolphi) Arn. of Myrtaceae tribe Chamelaucieae DC. Its type species is the extremely variable 

V. plumosa (Desf.) Druce. George (1991) recognised seven varieties for V. plumosa, but noted that most 

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 


Nuytsia Vol. 23 (2013)

the other six varieties in being lignotuberous, while var. vassensis and var. pleiobotrya were described 

pleiobotrya was recorded 

as having narrower sepals and petals than all the other varieties.

Distributions of the varieties and intermediate specimens

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. 

brachyphylla and 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:

1. var. 

brachyphylla and var. incrassata (some var. incrassata specimens from Fitzgerald River 

National Park having a tendency towards var. brachyphylla);

2. var. 

brachyphylla and var. vassensis (e.g. Darkin Reserve and Bowelling);

3. var. 

 and var. incrassata (intergrading from Scadden southwards);

4. var. 

 and var. plumosa (Cape Riche);

5. var. 

plumosa and var. vassensis (e.g. near Manjimup and Scott River).

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:

1. var. 

ananeotes and var. vassensis (Ruabon), with some specimens labelled as being hybrids, 

i.e. Verticordia plumosa var. ananeotes × vassensis, a name which also appears on FloraBase;

2. var. 

brachyphylla and var. 

 (Fitzgerald River National Park);

3. var. 

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.

Recent collections and germination studies

Cochrane et al. (2001) measured seed production and germination rates in the three rare varieties of 

V. plumosa. They found the lowest proportion of seed set (5.4%) in the lignotuberous (resprouter) var. 

ananeotes, and also the lowest germination rate (26%) based on a sample of 63 seeds obtained from 

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 


A.M. Harris & B.L. Rye, A re-assessment of Verticordia plumosa 

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 

seed set.

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 

brachyphylla, and when 

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 

brachyphylla and 

var. vassensis

brachyphylla. The greater variation 

V. plumosa var. pleiobotrya

V. plumosa var. brachyphylla







1.5–3(–8) mm

2–8 mm

7–11 mm

5–12 mm




2.3–2.5 mm


2.3–3.3 mm

narrow to broad

2.5–3.5 mm 

narrow to broad

2.5–3.5 mm

narrow to broad




2–2.4 mm

1.1–1.5 mm

2–3 mm

1.3–2.2 mm

2.2–3 mm

not given

2.2–3.2 mm

1.5–2.2 mm

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.


Nuytsia Vol. 23 (2013)

brachyphylla as a result of including var. pleiobotrya within it has 

meant that the specimens labelled as intermediate with var. vassensis are now a good match for var. 

brachyphylla s. lat.


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 

Verticordia plumosa

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

2. Sepals 4–5.5 mm long. Petals 3.5–4.5 mm long, usually white, 

rarely pale pink (S of Stirling Ra.–Cape Arid NP) ............................................................var.

2: Sepals 1.8–4 mm long. Petals 2–3.8 mm long, pale to 

deep pink, rarely white

3. Leaf blades 2–5 mm long, 0.6–1 mm thick. Sepals 3–4 mm long 

(Marvel Loch– Fitzgerald River NP–Scadden) .................................................................var. incrassata

3: Leaf blades 2–10(–14) mm long, 0.35–0.6 mm thick. 

Sepals 1.8–3.5(–4) mm long

4. Peduncles 1.5–4 mm long. Sepals 1.8–2.8 mm long. Flowering 

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

5. Leaf blades 7–10(–14) mm long. Sepals 2.5–4 mm long. 

Occurring on granite (Wooroloo–far south-west–Cape Riche) ...................................... var. plumosa

5: Leaf blades 2–8 mm long. Sepals 2.2–3.5 mm long. Occurring 

mainly in low-lying sites, often in winter-wet depressions 

(Arrowsmith River–Scott River–Fitzgerald River NP) .......................................... var. brachyphylla


A.M. Harris & B.L. Rye, A re-assessment of Verticordia plumosa 

Status of the four common varieties of 

Verticordia plumosa

Verticordia plumosa has four common varieties—var. brachyphylla, var. 

, 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, 

brachyphylla has increased 

brachyphylla and the other three varieties, as var. 


Verticordia plumosa var.  brachyphylla (Diels) A.S.George, Nuytsia  7: 356 (1991). Verticordia 

fontanesii var. brachyphylla Diels, Bot. Jahrb. 35: 403 (1904). Verticordia plumosa var. brevifolia 

(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); 

isolecto: BM n.v., E n.v., NSW 542650, PERTH 01623044).

Verticordia plumosa var. pleiobotrya A.S.George, Nuytsia 7: 354–355 (1991). Type: Kargotich Road, 

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, 

PERTH 01883577).

Selected specimens examined. WESTERN AUSTRALIA: Abernethy Rd, 1.4 km E of Kargotich Rd, W 

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, 

K.R. Thiele 3911 (PERTH).

Distribution and habitat. Extends from Arrowsmith River south to Scott River and south-east to Fitzgerald 

River National Park (Figure 1A). Occurs mainly in low-lying sites, often in winter-wet depressions.

Flowering period. October to December.

Conservation status. This variety has numerous populations in a range that extends for more than 600 km.

Notes. A small selection of the recently collected specimens from the Swan Coastal Plain and Darling 

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. 

brachyphylla is the most widely distributed of the varieties and overlaps or abuts the ranges  

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.


Nuytsia Vol. 23 (2013)



Figure 1. Distribution maps for varieties of Verticordia plumosa. A – var. ananeotes ( ) and var. 








A.M. Harris & B.L. Rye, A re-assessment of Verticordia plumosa 



Figure 2. Distribution maps for varieties of Verticordia plumosa. A – var. incrassata


( ); B – var. plumosa






Nuytsia Vol. 23 (2013)

Status of 

Verticordia plumosa varieties ananeotes and vassensis

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.

Verticordia plumosa var. ananeotes is listed as Threatened under DEC Conservation Codes for 

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 

Australia (IBRA) Version 6.1. http//

html [accessed 26 April  2013].

Verticordia (Myrtaceae: Chamelaucieae). Nuytsia 

7: 231–494.

: the turner of hearts. (University of Western Australia Press: Crawley, 

Western Australia.)

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 

Conservation. http// [accessed 26 April 2013].

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