WA Xmas Christmas Tree

West Australian Christmas Tree

Common name West Australian Christmas Tree
Botanical name Nuytsia floribunda
Family Loranthaceae
Natural range South-west Western Australia
Mature height to 10m
Form Wide bushy crown
Likes Parasitising other plants
Dislikes n/a
Where to plant Away from your neighbours
Known for Largest parasitic plant in the world

What Makes Christmas Time Special in Western Australia?

Every summer, the cityscape of Perth in Western Australia undergoes a delightful transformation. Hitherto nondescript trees burst into a spectacle of bright orange flowers, adding a vibrant touch to the Christmas festivities. At first glance, one might dismiss these as just another native species with a pleasing flowering pattern. However, underneath this colourful exterior lies a fascinating secret that even seasoned garden enthusiasts might find surprising.

So, What Exactly is the West Australian Christmas Tree?

Unveiling the mystery, the West Australian Christmas Tree, fondly known as Moodjar in the local Noongar language, proudly bears the title of the world’s largest parasitic plant. Unlike the Strangler Fig that adheres itself onto host plants, this tree grows a robust trunk stretching up to 10 meters in height and stealthily siphons off resources, including water and nutrients.

How Does This Tree Successfully Steal Nutrients?

This ‘nutrient pilferer’ has an ingenious strategy up its sleeve – ‘haustoria.’ These special roots seek out and envelop other roots like a seasoned conman. It doesn’t discriminate either; its victims range from carrots and grasses to eucalypts and even weeds. The process is fascinating: upon encountering a foreign root, it forms a tissue collar around it, inside which a hydraulically operated blade cuts into the root, drawing out its nutrients. Intriguing, isn’t it?

What Makes It a Remarkable Survivor?

Adaptability is this tree’s middle name. Even in landscapes where native vegetation is entirely replaced by introduced grasses, it thrives. As a clonal species, it’s unfazed by climate change, drawing moisture from other plants’ systems and sending out roots as long as 110 meters to spawn new trees.

Where is its Favourite Habitat?

The West Australian Christmas Tree, or Nuytsia floribunda in scientific parlance, is a common sight within a 50-kilometer range from the Western Australian coast. It’s not fussy about its victims either. It even disrupts underground electrical cables, causing power outages in houses, or damages irrigation pipes. So, if you’re planning to plant one near your neighbour’s garden, you might want to think twice!

Interesting Facts:
  1. The West Australian Christmas Tree is known as the world’s largest parasitic plant.
  2. It can send out roots up to 110 meters in length to start growing new trees.
  3. The tree can even ‘attack’ underground electrical cables, causing power outages, and damage irrigation systems.
  4. The tree is a clonal species, meaning it can reproduce asexually, creating genetically identical copies of itself.
Further Reading:
  1. The Mistletoe Family: More Than Just a Christmas Decoration
  2. Understanding Parasitic Plants: Mechanisms and Adaptations
  3. The World’s Most Remarkable Trees and Their Secrets
  4. The Fascinating World of Australian Native Flora
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