Plants of
South Australia
Ptilotus incanus
Grey Fox-tail
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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 incanus var. incanus

Ptilotus obovatus var. griseus

Ptilotus incanus var. parviflorus

Ptilotus helmsii, nom.inval., pro syn.

Trichinium incanum var. parviflorum

Trichinium incanum

Trichinium gnaphalodes


Ptilotus from the Greek 'ptilotos' meaning feathered or winged; referring to the hairy flowers. Incanus from Latin meaning grayish-white; referring to its appearance.

Distribution and status

Found in the north-western part of South Australia, growing on rocky hills with eucalypts or acacia and Triodia. Also found in Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland. Native. Uncommon in South Australia. Rare in Queensland. Common in Western Australia and Northern Territory.
Herbarium region: North Western
NRM region: Alinytjara Wilurara
AVH map: SA distribution map (external link)

Plant description

Shrubs with ascending to erect stems covered in dense hairs. Leaves lanceolate-ovate on short-petiolate. Flower-spikes small terminal cluster with hairy white flowers tinged with pink. Flowering between April and December. Fruits are whitish globular head containing numerous long papery and hairy fruits, each containing one seed. Seed embryo type is peripheral.

Seed collection and propagation

Collect seeds between September 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.