Australian Equivalent of Rapunzel Plant

Question From: 
Jo Henwood in  Brooklyn,  Sydney NSW

 

Nature of problem: 
Seeking an Australian plant that is the equivalent of rapunzel

 

Type of Plant (if known): 
Perhaps Gymea lily. Or possibly New Zealand flax, pandanus, dianilla, lomandra, warrigal greens, stringybark

 

Symptoms of Plant Illness (please try NOT to diagnose your problems yourself): 
N/A

 

Soil Type (e.g. sandy, clay or loam) OR Potting Mix Type: 
N/A

 

How often do you water the plant:
N/A

 

How many hours of sunlight does the plant get each day:
N/A

 

What type of plant is it:
N/A

 

How long since you planted it:
N/A

 

Have you fertilised? If so, with what and when:
N/A

 

Is the plant indoors or outdoors: 
Outdoors

 

What other treatments have you given the plant: 
N/A

Upload photo if available: 

Other Comments: 
This is not your usual Doryanthes enquiry.

I am the co founder of the Australian Fairy Tale Society and coordinate local groups called Fairy Tale Rings which investigate the Australian connections to fairy tales. This month we are exploring Rapunzel with its intriguing botanical connections. In the story, Rapunzel’s mother craves the greens growing in a neighbouring garden – and that’s the beginning of their problems. In Italy and France the plant was parsley and the name of the character was a version of Persinette, but the German version made famous by the Grimms has the plant rapunzel, or lamb’s lettuce.

There are a number of plants that now claim to be the rapunzel they were talking about: Valerianella locusta, and Campanula rapunculus (which, as well as being green and leafy, also has a hairy root which could have contributed to the idea of Rapunzel’s hair) and then, most fascinating of all, is this reference from Imaginary Landscape by William Irwin Thompson that

rapunzel was an ancient name for the flax plant that not only has bright blue flowers but also, when it ripens, forms long blonde / yellow fibres that twist around each other like a plait to capture pollen and so form seeds; hence the emergence of a blue eyed girl with long flaxen plaits.

I contacted Clarence Slockee (Aboriginal Education Manager at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney) to see if he knew of any Australian plants which might have similar characteristics. Had been thinking of Warrigal Greens before this last idea and I’m now considering maybe Dianilla or Lomandra but Clarence suggested
New Zealand flax Phormium tenax would be closest by description. Not native, it is naturalised (garden escape.) Don’t know, as the three main plant species for such things would be stringy barks (Eucalyptus,) Pandanus (very spikey) and Gymea/spear lillies(Rapunzel would then be a Redhead.)

I LOVE the idea of an Australian Rapunzel being a redhead rather than a blonde! And a quick google suggests a certain toughness which is also appealing in an Australian character. But does Doryanthes have the necessary qualities of
a) Hairiness
b) Edibility

What do you think? Could you see a Gymea lily in the story of an Australian Rapunzel? Or do you have a better suggestion?

 

Answer: Hi Jo,   Maybe the native bluebell creeper which used to be called Sollya heterophylla, but is now Billardiera heterophylla. This is a twining climber (a bit like hair) with blue flowers. You might need to go to a native plant nursery for it though.   Don

 
 

 

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