spreading flaxlily (Dianella revoluta)
A tussocky plant with long tapering leaves, the spreading flaxlily is commonly found with a related species, the broader-leafed forest flaxlily Dianella tasmanica. Both species went largely unnoticed by early Europeans, but are more recently being appreciated as attractive garden plants.
Flaxlilies were highly valued by Tasmanian Aborigines. The leaves produced a nourishing tea and the roots and characteristic small, slightly tart, berry-like fruits were edible. The berries were also used as a dye and for treating ulcers.
Aboriginal women also split the long leaves of the flaxlily and twisted them into cords to weave mats and bags.
Bluetongue lizards and skinks eat flaxlily seeds, and mice and marsupials, including antechinus, eat both seeds and fruit. Birds such as honeyeaters and silvereyes feed on the fruits. Fairy-wrens forage amongst and under these plants, and along with brown thornbills, use them as nesting sites. Frogs shelter amongst flaxlily in the summer.
(Photos: Australian Plant Society-Tasmania; and Fiona Rice)
STUDENT INQUIRY QUESTIONS
The flowers of spreading flaxlily (Dianella revoluta) are buzz-pollinated. Find out what this means and who is responsible for it!
Collect some leaves and try weaving or plaiting with them.