From late winter through spring, Western Australia's 12,000 wildflower varieties set out to eclipse each other. The blue leschenaultia is one of the more widely known of Western Australia's many beautiful wildflowers.
The leschenaultias belong to the Family Goodeniaceae and there are 21 different species in Western Australia. The name comes from Jean-Baptiste Louis Claud The'odore Leschenault de la Tour who made several expeditions to Australia and to the far east. Leschenault was the botanist attached to Baudin's expedition to Australia.
The naturalist, Robert Brown, named the plants but unfortunately spelt the genus name 'lechnaultia' leaving out an 's'. The common name is seen spelt both ways but the genus name remains without the 's'.
The blue leschenaultia (Lechenaultia biloba) is relatively common along roadsides from Eneabba to Lake King and is also seen in the jarrah forests of the south-west. Aboriginal people called this flower 'the floor of the sky'. In spring it carpets the ground with blue flowers. White stripes on the flower petals lead the bees to the nectar.
It prefers gravely or sandy-gravel soils. It is a small shrub reaching to 40cm and is covered in flowers varying in colour from white through all shades of blue. It flowers in spring and is cultivated in gardens. It likes a pH between 6.5 (slightly acidic) and 5.6 (acidic) and will grow in full sun or partial shade.
The red leschenaultia (Lechenaultia formosa) has a similarly shaped flower but of a different colour. It is a variable species with blooms ranging from shades of pink to orange and yellow. Two-toned yellow and red appear as well. In general, the plants from a mat or may get to 20cm in height. It is found in open forest east of Perth to the south coast heathlands and flowers from late spring to summer.
Heath leschenaultia (Lechenaultia tubiflora) is another of the leschenaultias to be found on the south coast heathlands and in a few locations in the wheatbelt. It is an unusual species which grows in sand, sometimes appearing as an erect plant to around 30cm but more commonly cushion-like. Flowers may be two-toned or red, deep pink, cream or white. The plant flowers from spring to summer.
One of the more unusual flowers which can be seen at this time is the very attractive wreath flower or Lechenaultia macrantha. On a dusty gravel roadside between Carnamah and Three Springs there is a veritable carpet of these multi-coloured, circular wreaths. The wreath flower is not particularly common and appears only in specialised areas. It is common in the Tardun area where it appears every year from a perennial stock. It reaches a diameter of 50cm and flowers peripherally, giving the appearance of a wreath of flowers with a leafy centre. The wreath flower has proved very difficult to cultivate, in fact almost impossible, whether from seed or by transplanting.
As might be expected, Lechenaultia hirsuta has the common name of 'hairy leschenaultia'. It is a small shrub with long sprawling branches. It grows in sandy heathland in the more northern areas from Hill River through to Shark Bay. The brilliant deep pink to red flowers appear in late spring.
The Irwin leschenaultia (Lechenaultia longiloba) is seen only rarely. It is at its best on disturbed roadsides between the Irwin and Greenough Rivers. Ten centimetre tall stems grow from underground main stems. These upright stems bear the flowers from spring to summer.
The red, hairy and blue leschenaultias are seen in native gardens, adding colour and attractive flowers just as they do in the wild.