Eremophila is a genus of about 215 species of plants in the figwort family, Scrophulariaceae all of which are endemic to mainland Australia. (One species, Eremophila debilis is thought to be a recent arrival in New Zealand). Eremophilas are widespread in the arid areas of Australia, especially Western Australia and range in size from low-growing shrubs to small trees. The petals are joined, at least at their bases, into a tube with the upper petals different in size and shape from the lower ones. Some species have common names including emu bush, poverty bush or fuchsia bush, reflecting the belief that emus eat the fruit, their arid environment or a superficial resemblance to the flowers of plants in the genus Fuchsia.
Eremophilas vary in size and habit from low, prostrate shrubs to small trees in the case of Eremophila bignoniiflora. Leaf size and shape is also variable but the leaves are usually small and are often shiny or hairy. The petals are joined into a tube, at least at the base. The tube has two upper lobes and three lower lobes which are usually different in size and or shape. As the flower ages, the corolla falls off then the calyx enlarges and becomes coloured as the fruit enlarges.
Taxonomy and naming
The genus Eremophila was first formally described in 1810 by the botanist Robert Brown in Prodromus Florae Novae Hollandiae. The first species to be named was Eremophila oppositifolia. The name Eremophila is derived from the Ancient Greek ἐρῆμος (erêmos) meaning "lonely" or "desert" and φίλος (phílos) meaning “dear" or "beloved” alluding to the species' adaptation to arid environments.
Eremophilas are distributed across the Australian mainland, primarily in arid regions, with the majority of species occurring in Western Australia. Eremophila maculata is found in all Australian states but there are no eremophilas in Tasmania. Eremophila debilis is found in New Zealand although its appearance there is thought to be recent, most likely as a recent of introduction by people.
Eremophila includes entomophilous species, with flowers adapted to attract insects, and ornithophilous species, with flowers that attract birds. Entomophilous flowers have protruding lower lips, which provide a landing area for insects, and they are often blue, purple, or white. Bird-adapted flowers are red, orange, yellow, or green, and have lobes pointing downwards which discourages insects. Bird pollinated species also tend to have longer stamens, which brush pollen onto and off the bird's head as it feeds. The fruits are eaten by emus, which disperse the seeds in their droppings although the belief that this aids in the germination of the seeds is mistaken.
Aboriginal people used eremophilas for cultural and health reasons. For example, the Adnyamathanha people used Varti-varka (Eremophila longifolia) in burial ceremonies and in initiation ceremonies. Skin complaints were treated with a mixture of emu oil and the ash from burned bark of the plant.
Use in horticulture
- "Genus: Eremophila R. Br.". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville Area.
- Chinnock, R.J. (Bob) (2007). Eremophila and allied genera : a monograph of the plant family Myoporaceae (1st ed.). Dural, NSW: Rosenberg. p. 180. ISBN 9781877058165. Retrieved 8 September 2015.
- Moore, P. (2005). Plants of Inland Australia. Reed New Holland. ISBN 187633486X.
- "Eremophila and it relatives - background". Australian Native Plants Society Australia. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
- "Eremophila". APNI. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
- Brown, Robert (1810). Prodromus Florae Novae Hollandiae (Volume 1) (PDF). London. p. 518. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
- "ἐρῆμος". Wiktionary. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
- "-phila". Wiktionary. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
- "Eremophila alternifolia". Australian Native Plants Society Australia. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
- Chinnock, R.J. (Bob) (2007). Eremophila and allied genera : a monograph of the plant family Myoporaceae (1st ed.). Dural, NSW: Rosenberg. pp. 228–229. ISBN 9781877058165.
- "Eremophila and its Relatives - Propagation". Australian Native Plants Society Australia. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
- Wrigley, John W.; Fagg, Murray (1983). Australian native plants : a manual for their propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping (2nd ed.). Sydney: Collins. p. 212. ISBN 0002165759.
Media related to Eremophila at Wikimedia Commons