Plants of
South Australia
Ptilotus nobilis
Amaranthaceae
Regal Fox-tail
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Regional Species Conservation Assessments per IBRA subregion.
Least concern
Near threatened
Rare
Vulnerable
Endangered
Critically endangered
Extinct
Data deficient
Adelaide
Arkaroola
Ceduna
Coober Pedy
Hawker
Innamincka
Marla
Marree
Mount Gambier
Oodnadatta
Renmark
Wudinna
Keith
Yunta
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Botanical art

Kath Alcock painting: 1.

Etymology

Ptilotus from the Greek 'ptilotos' meaning feathered or winged; referring to the hairy flowers. Nobilis means notable or showy; alluding to the species large and showy flower-spike.

Distribution and status

Found across much of South Australia except for the wetter parts, growing in a variety of habitats, including Acacia woodland, mallee-eucalypt woodland, shrubland or grassland, on red sands, sandy loams or clays, occasionally on stony sites. Also found in all mainland states. Native. Common in South Australia. Common in the other states.
Herbarium regions: North Western, Lake Eyre, Nullarbor, Gairdner-Torrens, Flinders Ranges, Eastern, Eyre Peninsula, Northern Lofty, Murray
NRM regions: Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges, Alinytjara Wilurara, Eyre Peninsula, South Australian Arid Lands, South Australian Murray-Darling Basin
AVH map: SA distribution map (external link)

Plant description

Spreading to erect herb to 1 m high or more with branching stems on larger specimens. Leaves obovate to broadly spathulate, those at base to 15 cm long and 7 cm wide, subfleshy, glabrous except on youngest growth, margins often undulate. Flower-spike ovoid at first, to 5 cm wide, elongating with age, to 15 cm long with yellowish or pinkish when young, intensely fragrant when fresh. Flowering between August and November. This subspecies is distinguished from the other subspecies by the inflorescences being 5–20 cm long (2–5 cm long in subsp. semilanatus), with the apex conical ( truncate or obtuse in subsp. semilanatus), the tepals 17–24 mm long (14–17 mm long in subsp. semilanatus), and the linear or narrowly-spathulate leaves 10–40 mm wide, with straight margins (2–6(–10) mm wide, margins undulatein subsp. semilanatus). Fruits are cylindrical head containing numerous long papery and hairy fruits, each containing one seed Seeds are dark red to black reinform seed to 2 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. From two collections, the seed viability were average, ranging from 55% to 57%. Seeds are non-dormant, viable seed should germinate readily.

Seeds stored:
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LocationNo. of seeds
(weight grams)
Number
of plants
Date
collected
Collection number
Collection location
Date
stored
% ViabilityStorage
temperature
BGA 
MSB
8,700 (81 g)
8,700 (81 g)
10023-Oct-2004MOL4569
Gairdner-Torrens
28-Mar-200657%-18°C
BGA7,700 (107.06 g)60+30-Dec-2005KHB30
Flinders Ranges
28-Jul-200610%-18°C
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.