Haemodorum coccineum

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Haemodorum coccineum
Haemodorum coccineum ArnhemLand.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Clade: Commelinids
Order: Commelinales
Family: Haemodoraceae
Genus: Haemodorum
Species: H. coccineum
Binomial name
Haemodorum coccineum
H. coccineum collection data from Australasian Virtual Herbarium

Haemodorum coccineum (bunyagutjagutja,[1] bloodroot,[2] scarlet bloodroot,[3] red root[4]) is a flowering plant in the same family as kangaroo paw.


A perennial herb[5] to one meter high.[4][5] Although it is not a grass, it has a grass-like appearance, with strap-like,[2][4] narrow, leathery leaves arising from the base of the plant.[2][5]

Flowering usually occurs between November and March, during the Top End wet season, however flowers have been observed as early as October and as late as May.[5] The flowers are deep-red or orange red and occur in dense clusters on long stiff stalks,[2][5] which also arise from the base of the plant.[5]

Fruit develop between November and March, and can linger until May.[5] The fruit are red[4][5] to black,[2] fleshy capsules with three lobes.[5] The mature fruit release a red-purple juice when crushed.[5]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Found in the Top End of the Northern Territory,[2][5][6] Northern Queensland[2][5][6] and Papua New Guinea.[6] Occurs in open woodland habitats on gravelly or shallow lateritic soils and sandstone.[5]



Indigenous Australians use this plant to make red, brown and purple dyes for coloring plant fibres.[1][2][5][7]

The bulbous red root is chopped or crushed and boiled in water to release the red-brown dyes, while the purple shades are made from H. coccineum fruit.[7]

Fibres such as the stripped leaves of Pandanus spiralis or the new leaves of Livistona humilis are added to the dye-bath, and later the colored fibre is used to make items such as baskets (Pandanus), string bags (Livistona) and fibre sculptures.[7]

Other uses[edit]

Suitable as a bedding or edging plant in native gardens.[4]

The fruits can be used in floral arrangements.[2]

Some sources report Indigenous Australians used the plant to treat snake-bite, and the dry stalks were used as fire-sticks.[5]

Propagation and cultivation[edit]

Haemodorum coccineum can be propagated from seed.[2] Vegetative propagation can be achieved by dividing the bulbous root.

Plants prefer a well drained sandy or gravelly soil and full sun.[2] In the dry season the plant will usually die back,[2] leaving the underground rootstock to regenerate later in the year.


  1. ^ a b Bula’bula Arts Aboriginal Corporation (2013) at http://www.bulabula-arts.com/Site/our-art/aboriginal-fibre-art.html. Accessed 2 September 2013
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Wrigley, J.W. and Fagg, M. 2007 Australian Native Plants, Reed New Holland, Sydney, Australia
  3. ^ Atlas of Living Australia website at http://bie.ala.org.au/search?q=haemodorum+coccineum. Accessed 2 September 2013
  4. ^ a b c d e Smith, N., 2007, Native Plants for Top End Gardens, Greening Australia (NT) Ltd, Darwin, Australia
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Brock, J., 1988 Top End Native Plants, John Brock, Darwin, Australia
  6. ^ a b c The Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria (2013) Australia’s Virtual Herbarium. http://avh.ala.org.au/occurrences/search?taxa=Haemodorum+coccineum#tab_mapView [Accessed 2 September 2013]
  7. ^ a b c Artback Northern Territory Arts Touring (2007) Recoil Education Kit at http://www.artbacknt.com.au/images/arts/recoil/pdf/teachersnotes.pdf. Accessed 2 September 2013

External links[edit]