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Natural populations

Leucochrysum albicans is a perennial herb up to 45 cm high which comprises two subspecies, subsp. alpinum and subsp. albicans and within the later are three varieties, var. albicans, var. buffaloensis, and var. tricolor [5]. The most widespread and common of the varieties is subsp. albicans var. albicans from the ranges of south-east Queensland to the Victorian Midlands, growing in grassland and eucalypt woodland vegetation communities, with scattered occurrences at either extreme extending into drier areas. In restricted habitats, subsp. alpinum and subsp. albicans var. buffaloensis occur at higher altitudes in the Australian Alps. Once widespread, var. tricolor is now reduced due to agriculture and confined to roadside easements, cemeteries and railway verges [32]. It is classed as endangered under the EPBC Act.

Flowering and seeds

This species flowers and set seed in the warmer months in spring - summer; seed is wind dispersed. Seed has been found to germinate at alternating temperatures of 20°C in daylight and 10°C at night, with peak germination at 7–14 days after sowing [76]. An after ripening period of 12 months in ambient conditions might improve germination, i.e., collecting in summer to sow the following spring (pers. comm. Paul Gibson-Roy, Grassy Groundcover project].

Cultivation and uses

This plant is commonly cultivated as an ornamental.

Key descriptors:

Var. albicans:
Climate parameters
Mean annual rainfall): 350-2300 mm
Rainfall distribution pattern: summer, uniform or winter
Mean annual temperature: 6-17 °C
Mean max. temperature of the hottest month: 15-36 °C
Mean min. temperature of the coldest month: -3-6 °C
Frosts (approx. no. per year): greater than 20
Frost intensity: light to moderate (0 to -5°C)
Altitude: 50-1750 metres
Tolerance of extremes in climate
Frost: tolerates frosts in the 0° to -5°C range
Soil factors
Texture: clay loam, light to medium clay (35-50% clay), loam, sandy loam, sandy clay loam or sand
Soil depth: 1. skeletal to shallow (less than 30 cm)
Salinity: 2. slightly to moderately saline
Biological traits under cultivation
Longevity: short-lived less than 15 years
Root system: shallow and spreading
Shade tolerance: grows best in full sunlight

Var. buffaloensis:
Climate parameters
Mean annual rainfall: 1400-1900 mm
Rainfall distribution pattern: winter
Mean annual temperature: 4-12 °C
Mean max. temperature of the hottest month: 18-26 °C
Mean min. temperature of the coldest month: -2-1 °C
Frosts (approx. no. per year): 3. greater than 20
Frost intensity: light to moderate (0 to -5°C) or severe or heavy (greater than -5°C)
Tolerance of extremes in climate
Frost: tolerates frosts in the 0° to -5°C range
Altitude: metres 700-1500 metres
Soil factors
Texture: loam, sandy loam, sandy clay loam
Soil depth: skeletal to shallow (less than 30 cm)
Drainage: well-drained
Biological traits under cultivation
Root system: shallow and spreading
Shade tolerance: grows best in full sunlight

Var. tricolor:
Climate parameters
Mean annual rainfall: 450-2300 mm
Rainfall distribution pattern: uniform or winter
Mean annual temperature: 5-17 °C
Mean max. temperature of the hottest month: 15-28 °C
Mean min. temperature of the coldest month: -3-5 °C
Frosts (approx. no. per year): greater than 20
Frost intensity: light to moderate (0 to -5°C)
Tolerance of extremes in climate
Frost: tolerates frosts in the 0° to -5°C range
Altitude: 100-1400 metres
Soil factors
Texture: clay loam, heavy clay (greater than 50% clay), light to medium clay (35-50% clay) or loam, sandy loam, sandy clay loam
Soil depth: 2. moderate to deep (30-100 cm or greater)
Biological traits under cultivation
Longevity: short-lived less than 15 years
Root system: shallow and spreading
Shade tolerance: grows best in full sunlight

Subsp. alpinum:
Climate parameters
Mean annual rainfall: 950-2700 mm
Rainfall distribution pattern: winter
Mean annual temperature: 2-12 °C
Mean max. temperature of the hottest month: 14-24 °C
Mean min. temperature of the coldest month: -6-0 °C
Frosts (approx. no. per year): 3. greater than 20
Frost intensity: light to moderate (0 to -5°C)
Tolerance of extremes in climate
Frost: tolerates frosts in the 0° to -5°C range
Altitude: 1050-2200 metres
Soil factors
Texture: loam, sandy loam, sandy clay loam
Soil depth: 1. skeletal to shallow (less than 30 cm)
Biological traits under cultivation
Longevity: short-lived less than 15 years
Root system: shallow and spreading
Shade tolerance: grows best in full sunlight

References

[29] Wilson P (1992) The Classification of Australian Species currently included in Helipterum and related genera (Asteraceae: Gnaphalieae): Part 2: Leucochrysum. Nuytsia 8: 442.

 [32] Costin BJ, Morgan JW, Young AG (2001) Reproductive success does not decline in fragmented populations of Leucochrysum albicans subsp. albicans var. tricolor (Asteraceae). Biological Conservation, 98: 273-284.

 [52] Lazarus E, Lawrence N, Potts W (2003) Threatened Flora of Tasmania. Threatened Species Unit DPIWE, Tasmania. (Online http://www.dpiw.tas.gov.au/ThreatenedFloraCD/ Accessed: September 2007).

 [76] Morgan JW (1998) Comparative germination responses of 28 temperate grassland species. Australian Journal of Botany, 46: 209-219.

Internet links

Australian Government Species profile and threats database: http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=56204

Australian National Botanic Gardens – Growing Australian Plants: http://www.cpbr.gov.au/gnp/interns-2006/leucochrysum-albicans.html

PlantNet NSW Flora Online – species description & distribution: http://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl= sp&name=Leucochrysum~albicans

Threatened Flora of Tasmania: http://www.dpiw.tas.gov.au/ThreatenedFloraCD/Leucochrysum%20albicans%20ssp.%20albicans%20var.%20tricolor.pdf

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