Plants of
South Australia
Ptilotus angustifolius
Narrow-leaf Fox tails,
Narrow-leaf Yellow-tails
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Regional Species Conservation Assessments per IBRA subregion.
Least concern
Near threatened
Critically endangered
Data deficient
Coober Pedy
Mount Gambier
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Botanical art

Kath Alcock painting: 1

Prior names

Ptilotus nobilis ssp. angustifolius

Ptilotus nobilis var. angustifolius

Common names

Narrow-leaf Fox tails

Narrow-leaf Yellow-tails


Ptilotus from the Greek 'ptilotos' meaning feathered or winged; referring to the hairy flowers. Angustifolius means narrow leaf (formally Pnobilis ssp. angustifolius meaning notable or showy; alluding to the species large and showy flower-spike).

Distribution and status

Endemic to South Australia and found near Quorn, north-east of Port Augusta, south to Victor Harbor, growing on rocky slopes or hills, occurring in Eucalyptus microcarpa association. Native. Rare in South Australia.
Herbarium regions: Flinders Ranges, Eyre Peninsula, Northern Lofty, Murray, Yorke Peninsula, Southern Lofty, Green Adelaide
NRM regions: Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges, Northern and Yorke, South Australian Arid Lands
AVH map: SA distribution map (external link)

Plant description

Low bushy growth herb with several stems unbranched or divided toward the base, arising tuft-like from the rhizome. Leaves considerably narrower and long-decurrent. Flower-spikes with 15 flowers loosely composed with purple flowers. Flowering between October and November. This subspecies is distinguish from subsp. nobilis by its narrow basal leaves with long attenuate bases, the leaf lamina usually less coriaceous than in subsp. nobilis, and its usually shorter and less robust habit. It is vegetatively similar to subsp. semilanatus, but differs in the much longer perianths and styles. Fruits are ovoid head containing numerous long papery and hairy fruits, each containing one seed. Seeds are orange-brown, reniform to 3 mm long and 1.5 mm wide.  Seed embryo type is peripheral.

Seed collection and propagation

Collect seeds between October and January. Be very careful when collecting this species as the fruits contain fine hairs that may cause an allergic reaction for some people. Collect the fruit heads when dried to a pale straw colour. Each fruit should come off the head easily when fingers are rubbed up the stem. Collect more fruits than required as not all fruits will have a viable seed. Be very careful when cleaning this species as the fruits contain fine hairs that may cause an allergic reaction for some people. To clean, rub the fruit heads gently to dislodge the seed at the base of each fruit. Use a sieve to separate the unwanted material. Store the seeds with a desiccant such as dried silica beads or dry rice, in an air tight container in a cool and dry place. Seed viability is usually high but seed availability tend to be low. Seeds are non-dormant, viable seed should germinate readily.

Seeds stored:
LocationNo. of seeds
(weight grams)
of plants
Collection number
Collection location
% ViabilityStorage
BGA1,100 (3.74 g)358-Nov-2018JJS9
Southern Lofty
BGA580 (1.15 g)1228-Nov-2018JJS8
Southern Lofty
Location: BGA — the seeds are stored at the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, MSB — the seeds are stored at the Millennium Seed Bank, Kew, England.
Number of plants: This is the number of plants from which the seeds were collected.
Collection location: The Herbarium of South Australia's region name.
% Viability: Percentage of filled healthy seeds determined by a cut test or x-ray.