Plants of
South Australia
Frankenia cupularis
Cupped Sea-heath
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Regional Species Conservation Assessments per IBRA subregion.
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Near threatened
Critically endangered
Data deficient
Coober Pedy
Mount Gambier
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Botanical art

Kath Alcock paintings: 2

Prior names

Frankenia pseudo-flabellata

Frankenia orthotricha

Frankenia annua var. orthotricha

Frankenia annua


Frankenia named after Johan Frankenius (1590-1661), a Swedish botanist. Cupularis from Latin meaning a little cup, referring to the cup-shaped bracteolar sheath which is fused to the calyx.

Distribution and status

Found in north and north-eastern South Australia, growing on sand flats and salt pans. Also found in the Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales. Native. Uncommon in South Australia. Uncommon in the other States.
Herbarium regions: Lake Eyre, Gairdner-Torrens, Flinders Ranges, Eastern
NRM region: South Australian Arid Lands
AVH map: SA distribution map (external link)

Plant description

Small, much-branched shrub. Branches differentiated into long and short-shoots, which are either glabrous or covered in soft hairs. Long-shoot leaves to 11.5 mm long and 3.5 mm wide, oblong, ovate, oblanceolate or obovate, rarely linear, flat or with margins loosely to tightly revolute; surfaces a greyish yellow-green, glabrous or covered in soft hairs. Short-shoot leaves similar to long-shoot leaves. Inflorescence borne in long, irregularly and highly branched opposite pairs with pink flowers; bracts and bracteoles oblong to ovate, to 10 mm long, upper surface with soft spreading hairs, most of lower surface exposed; cupular sheath fused to calyx; calyx 5–6 mm long; petals 6–8 mm long; stamens 6. Flowers possibly throughout the year. Fruits are small brown cylindrical capsule. Seed embryo type is spatulate, fully developed.

Seed collection and propagation

Collect seeds between January and December. Look at the tip of branches for dried flower heads. Collect the heads that are cylindrical, brown, slightly fat at the base. This should contain small ovoid seed. Place the flower heads in a tray and leave to dry for at least a week. Then rub the dried heads gently to dislodge the seeds. Use a fine sieve to separate the seeds from the unwanted material. Be careful as the seeds are very small. 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. Seeds are non-dormant, viable seed should germinate readily.