A flower that is a bird. Is that absurd?

Although the title of this article may sound like a Dr Seuss rhyme, I assure you it’s not about a made up species! A few years ago on a quick trip up to Birdsville (in far south-west Queensland, just over the South Australian border), I came across a very striking plant at the base of some huge red sand dunes. The flowers stood out, both due to their vibrant colour – a rich yellow/green against the red dunes and blue sky – and the shape. These flowers were the shape of a flying bird!

Individual flowers of the Green Birdflower resemble a bird in flight. Photo: Sheryl Holliday

I could not believe my luck in seeing these, as I had only just seen a post on social media earlier that day, of the same flowers (from near Broome in WA). So I immediately knew what they were.

Crotalaria cunninghamii, commonly known as the Green Birdflower, and is a member of the legume family Fabaceae (or Leguminosae). Crotalaria was named after a Greek word for rattle, referring to the fact that the seeds rattle in the pods of many of this genus. Hence Crotalaria are collectively known as Rattlepods. Allan Cunningham, after whom this species was named, was an English botanist in the early 1800s.

The Green Birdflower occurs in central Australia, Northern Territory and in the northern part of WA. It has large oval shaped, velvety grey-green leaves. Each flower is attached around the stem, by its beak (calyx).

I think these flowers are pretty amazing!

Sheryl Holliday
Sheryl Holliday


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