Christmas Bells ring out for Christmas Day in the Southern Hemisphere long before they do in the Northern Hemisphere. Day 22 of this Advent Botany blog switches to Australia for the appropriately named Christmas Bells. Read on for the strong University of Reading connection in the Northern Hemisphere.
The family Blandfordiaceae and the genus Blandfordia were named after George Spencer-Churchill, the fifth Duke of Marlborough and Marquis of Blandord (1766-1840). He was a noted collector. His plant collections and botanical interests connect him to the University of Reading. The Whiteknights campus was the original site for his mansion and botanical garden, before debts forced him to sell and move to the family seat at Blenheim Palace.
The genus Blandfordia contains just 4 species with photographs in this blog, for which we are indebted to photographer John Tann of Sydney, Australia in particular:
- Blandfordia grandiflora, Christmas Bells
- Blandfordia nobilis, Christmas Bells
- Blandfordia punicea, Tasmanian Christmas Bells
- Blandfordia cunninghamii, Mountain Christmas Bells
Blandfordiaceae Distribution Map
Christmas Bells have a restricted distribution to Eastern Australian and Tasmania. They could be found in greenhouses in Britain during the 18th Century. They are called Christmas Bells because these summer flowers bloom at Christmas time in the Southern Hemisphere. Below, you can see the rough type of terrain in which this beautiful Christmas flower grows.
Blandfordia grandiflora has a grass-like, linear leaf with a prominent mid-vein and rough margin (as shown below).
The plant has a distinctive seed pod. According to Kew’s Plants of the World (2017), it splits into three.
Other Christmas Bells
Tasmanian Christmas Bells
Blandfordia punicea is known as Tasmanian Christmas Bells. It is an eye-catching plant that rises above its surrounding vegetation. Its tufted appearance with rush-like leaves made it an attractive plant even when not in flower. It featured on Australian stamps in 2007.
Distribution: It is native to Western Tasmania in Australia. It needs some shade and good drainage to grow well.
(Source: Australian National Botanic Gardens/Australian National Herbarium)
Christmas Bells, Blandfordia nobilis
Blandfordia nobilis is also called Christmas Bells. It flowers late in the Australian spring to summer. The inflorescence is loosely racemose with 3 to 20 flowers.
Distribution: Grows in sloping sandstone country and swampy areas in coastal districts. Mainly found from Sydney to Milton and inland to Braidwood, New South Wales, Australia.
(Source: PlantNet: New South Wales’ Flora Online)
Mountain Christmas Bells
Blandfordia cunninghamii, is generally known as Mountain Christmas Bells.
Distribution: It grows in damp shallow sandy and peaty soils. It is often to located on sandstone cliff edges and is mainly found in the Blue Mountains and Illawarra areas.
Variation: Species variations resemble Blandfordia grandiflora in the more northern parts of its distribution. This species may hybridise.
(Source: PlantNet, New South Wales’ Flora Online).
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