Plants of
South Australia
Heliotropium cunninghamii
Boraginaceae
Creeping Heliotrope
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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
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Etymology

Heliotropium from the Greek 'helios' meaning sun and 'tropos' meaning turn; probably alluding to an early belief that the flowers turned to face the sun. Cunninghamii named after Allan Cunningham (1791-1839), an English botanist and explorer, primarily known for his travels in Australia to collect plants.

Distribution and status

Found in the north, north-west and north-eastern parts of South Australia growing in a wide range of habitats, including grassland, mulga, base of a sandstone ridge, scree slope of quartzite range, on red earth, limestone, gravelly and granitic sand soils. Also found in Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland. Native. Uncommon in South Australia. Common in the other States.
Herbarium regions: North Western, Lake Eyre, Flinders Ranges
NRM regions: Alinytjara Wilurara, South Australian Arid Lands
AVH map: SA distribution map (external link)

Plant description

Annual, ascending to spreading-ascending herb to 60 cm tall with hairs on the stems, leaves and calyx. Leaves linear to oblong, to 40 mm long and 1 mm wide on short-petiole; surface with wrinkles and appressed hairs; base narrowly cuneate to rounded, the apex acute to narrowly so. Inflorescence a spike at axils of leaves, with a number of white with yellow-centred, bell-shaped flowers. Flowering between January and December, often between March and June. Fruits are brown capsules along the spike, splitting open at maturity. Seeds are dark brown to black sectoroid seed to 1.5 mm long and 1 mm wide. Seed embryo type is spathulate fully developed.

Seed collection and propagation

Collect seeds between May and August. Collect mature capsules that are drying off, turning brown and contain dark, hard seeds. Can collect individual capsule or break off whole spike. Place the capsules in a tray and leave to dry for one to two weeks. Then rub the fruits gently by hand to dislodge the seeds. 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 one collection, the seed viability was high, at 95%.

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
16,500 (6.8 g)
16,500 (6.8 g)
5017-May-2007RJB71821
North Western
1-Aug-200795%-18°C
BGA16,700 (6.36 g)100+21-Apr-2015DJD3112
Flinders Ranges
1-Jan-201695%-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.
Germination table:
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