Geography and distribution
Native to the south-western corner of Western Australia, from Augusta in the east to Two Peoples Bay, and north to Waroona, although occurring as a localized invasive weed in the Kleinmond district of the Cape in the Republic of South Africa.
A. flavidus has a preference for well-watered sandy loam and gravel and is usually associated with Eucalyptus and Melaleuca woodland or heath vegetation. It is a prolific seed producer and is a successful colonist of disturbed or burnt sandy soils.
Botanical exploration of south-western Australia
The genus Anigozanthos has 12 species, and in its native range is confined to the Southwest Australian Floristic Region (SWAFR), one of the biodiversity hot spots of the world. The history of botanical exploration in this region is discussed by Kew’s Director, Stephen D. Hopper, in a two-part article in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine: South-western Australia, Cinderella of the world’s temperate floristic regions.
Overview: The rootstock of tall kangaroo paw is a short rhizome (underground stem) with tough roots, forming a large clump.
Illustration of Anigozanthus flavidus by Sydenham Edwards (1809) taken from Curtis's Botanical Magazine
Leaves: The leaves are mostly basal, narrow, linear, upright or arching, measuring up to 1 m long and up to 2-3 cm wide.
Flowers: The flowering stems are up to 2 m long, branched, and covered with short hairs on their upper part. The flowers are clustered at the ends of the branches, and are 3-4.5 cm long, greenish-yellow, reddish, or, rarely, pink. The tubular flowers are densely covered in short hairs and have six pointed lobes. The style (female part) and stamens (male parts) are curved.
Seeds: The seed capsules have three cells containing small seeds which are grayish-brown or black.
Illustration from Curtis's Botanical Magazine
Curtis's Botanical Magazine (Editor: Martyn Rix) provides an international forum of particular interest to botanists and horticulturists, plant ecologists and those with a special interest in botanical illustration.
Now well over 200 years old, the Magazine is the longest running botanical periodical featuring colour illustrations of plants. Each four-part volume contains 24 plant portraits reproduced from watercolour originals by leading international botanical artists. Detailed but accessible articles combine horticultural and botanical information, history, conservation and economic uses of the plants described.
Published for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.
Find out more about Curtis's Botanical Magazine
Tall kangaroo paw is grown as an ornamental for general garden use in frost-free climates.
Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage
Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life world wide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.
Description of seeds: Average 1,000 seed weight = 0.69 g
Number of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank: One
Seed storage behaviour: Orthodox? (the seeds of this plant survive drying without significant reduction in their viability, and are therefore amenable to long-term frozen storage such as at the MSB)
Anigozanthos flavidus was introduced to cultivation in England from France in 1808, having been illustrated by the Belgian botanist Pierre-Joseph Redouté in Les Liliacées in 1807. It was probably grown from seed collected by the Nicolas Baudin expedition (from France to Australia in 1800-1803) and grown in the Empress Joséphine’s garden at Malmaison.
The most easily grown species of kangaroo paw, A. flavidus is tolerant of seasonally wet soils, growing in clay soils or in sand. Though normally evergreen, it can re-sprout from the rhizome after drought or fire. Tall kangaroo paw generally flowers from November to February in Australia.
Anigozanthos flavidus in situ
Propagation is by seed, or by division of the rhizomes in autumn, when wishing to increase a particular clone. The plants will probably survive only a few degrees of overnight frost. Though tall kangaroo paw may grow in partial shade in the wild, in more northern areas it is best grown with as much winter sun as possible. It has been found to grow well in southern California.
This species at Kew
Pressed and dried specimens of Anigozanthos flavidus are held in the behind-the-scenes Herbarium at Kew, where they are made available to researchers from around the world, by appointment. The details, including an image, of one of these specimens can be seen online in the Herbarium Catalogue.
View details and images of specimens online
All species are also represented by samples in Kew’s DNA bank, housed at the Jodrell Laboratory.
At Kew, A. flavidus and some of its hybrids can be seen planted in the Temperate House.
Research into the genus Anigozanthos and the family Haemodoraceae has been carried out at Kew in a science project led by the former Director (CEO and Chief Scientist) Professor Stephen Hopper.
Australia Landscape - Kew at the British Museum
In 2011, Kew and the British Museum brought to the heart of London a landscape showcasing the rich biodiversity of Australia, and how these fragile systems are under threat from land usage and climate change.
Anigozanthus flavidus (evergreen kangaroo paw) was one of 12 star plants featured in the Landscape, which took you on a journey across a whole continent, from eastern Australia’s coastal habitat, through the arid red centre, to the western Australian granite outcrop featuring unique and highly endangered plants.
Australia Landscape was part of the Australian season at the British Museum.
Supported by Rio Tinto.