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Western Australia

Red and Green Kangaroo Paw or Anigozanthos Manglesii

Floral Emblem of Western Australia

Red and Green Kangaroo Paw, Anigozanthos manglesii was proclaimed the floral emblem of Western Australia on 9 November 1960. [Proclamation]

It is one of about twelve species of the genus Anigozanthos which is restricted to the south-west of Western Australia. The family Haemodoraceae to which it belongs occurs in Australia, Papua New Guinea, South Africa and the Americas.

The author of the genus was the French botanist, Jacques-Julian Houton de Labillardiere, who was the first to collect the kangaroo paw, Anigozanthos rufus, near Esperance in 1792. The generic name Anigozanthos is probably derived from the Greek 'anises', meaning 'unequal' or 'oblique', and 'anthos', meaning 'flower', in reference to the division of the floral extremities into six unequal parts. The specific name, manglesii, honours Robert Mangles who raised the type specimen from seed in his English garden. The common name, kangaroo paw, is derived from the appearance of the unopened cluster of flowers.

Red and Green Kangaroo Paw was introduced to England in 1833 and described in 1836 by the British botanist, David Don (1799-1841). Robert Mangles recorded his experiences in growing the species in letters to his brother, Captain James Mangles RN, an enthusiastic patron of the cultivation of Western Australian species in English horticulture. In 1839 he wrote:

'I have Anigozanthus [sic] Manglesii shewing for flower in the open ground where I put it in April'. In August he noted that 'Anigozanthus [sic] is progressing fast', and three weeks later Anigozanthus [sic] is now four feet high but has not yet expanded its flower. I am under some apprehension these frosty nights may destroy it'.

In appearance, Red and Green Kangaroo Paw is a low sub-shrub growing from an underground stem. Its broad leaves are about 30 to 60 cm long and taper to an acute apex. The flowering stem grows to about a metre in height and is often forked in specimens from the northern part of the species' range. The stem and the bases of the flowers are usually deep red and covered with woolly hairs. The colour changes abruptly to a brilliant green for the greater length of the flower which splits open revealing the smooth pale green interior. Other colour forms include orange, green with an orange base, bright yellow with a red base, metallic blue with a red base and an all white form. The flowers are pollinated by birds seeking nectar.

In its natural habitat Red and Green Kangaroo Paw flowers between August and October, depending on seasonal conditions and locality. It occurs naturally in heath on sandy soil from the Murchison River in the north to Busselton and Mount Barker in the south and Lake Muir to the east. In the Darling Range it occurs in heath on gravelly soils of lateritic origin

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