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. Tanythrix from the Greek 'tanyo, meaning to stretch and 'thrix' meaning hair, referring to the length of the hairs on the calyx lobe margin.
Distribution and status
Found in the northern part of South Australia growing in a wide range of habitat, including mulga woodland, rocky ridges, mixed woodland, sandhills and undulating plain on sandy soil, stony soil and heavy clay soil. Also found in Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland. Native. Common in South Australia. Common in the other States.
Herbarium regions: North Western, Lake Eyre, Flinders Ranges, Eastern
NRM regions: Alinytjara Wilurara, South Australian Arid Lands
AVH map: SA distribution map (external link)
Annual to short-lived perennial; ascending to spreading herb to 30 cm tall with hairs on the stems, leaves and calyx. Leaves linear to oblong, to 540 mm long and 1 mm wide; appressed hairs; base cuneate to rounded, the apex acute. Inflorescence a long spike with white flowers, outer surface with appressed to ascending hairs; the inner surface with hairs in the throat. Flowering throughout the year, but mainly between January and May. Fruits are brown ovate capsule to 1 mm long and 0.7 mm wide, hairy; apex acute. Seeds are dark brown sectoroid seed to 1 mm long and 0.5 mm wide, with scattered short, spiny hairs. Seed embryo type is spathulate fully developed.
Seed collection and propagation
Collect seeds between December and May. Collect mature capsule, those that are drying off, turning brown and contain dark, hard seeds inside. Can collect individual fruit cluster or break off whole heads. 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.