Click on images to enlarge
infestation (Photo: Rob and Fiona Richardson)
habit (Photo: Rob and Fiona Richardson)
elongated, strap-like leaves (Photo: Rob and Fiona Richardson)
stems, with a cluster of bulbils in a leaf fork (Photo: Rob and Fiona Richardson)
whitish tubular flowers (Photo: Rob and Fiona Richardson)
flowers from side-on showing purple-tinged undersides (Photo: Rob and Fiona Richardson)
close-up of flower with white anthers (Photo: Rob and Fiona Richardson)
immature fruit (Photo: Rob and Fiona Richardson)
Sparaxis bulbifera (L.) Ker Gawl.
Ixia bulbifera L.Sparaxis grandiflora Ker Gawl. (misapplied)
bulbil sparaxis, harlequin flower, harlequin-flower, sparaxis, white harlequin flower
Native to south-western Africa (i.e. Cape Province in South Africa).
Widely naturalised in southern Australia (i.e. in the coastal and sub-coastal districts of central New South Wales, in central and southern Victoria, in Tasmania, in many parts of south-eastern and southern South Australia, and in south-western Western Australia.
Also naturalised overseas in the Azores.
A weed of heathlands, heathy woodlands, grasslands, grass woodlands, open woodlands, seasonal wetlands, roadsides, drainage lines, disturbed sites and waste areas in the temperate regions of Australia.
- an upright herbaceous plant growing 15-60 cm tall.
- its short-lived stems and leaves re-grow each year from a long-lived underground 'bulbs'.
- its elongated leaves (10-30 cm long and 4-13 mm wide) are mostly clustered at the base of the plant.
- numerous small bulb -like structures are produced in the upper leaf forks.
- its tubular flowers are predominantly white or cream, but often tinged with pale yellow or purple.
An upright (i.e. erect) herbaceous plant growing 15-60 cm tall. Its short-lived (i.e. annual) stems and leaves re-grow each year from a long-lived (i.e. perennial) underground 'bulb' (i.e. corm). These corms are usually 10-15 mm across.
Stems and Leaves
The elongated (i.e. linear) or sword-shaped (i.e. ensiform) leaves are clustered as the base of the plant or alternately arranged along the stems. These leaves (10-30 cm long and 4-13 mm wide) are sheathed at the base with entire margins and pointed tips (i.e. acute apices). They are hairless (i.e. glabrous), pale green in colour, and have a prominent mid-vein. Numerous small bulb-like structures (i.e. bulbils) are produced in their forks (i.e. axils).
Flowers and Fruit
The flowers are arranged in spikes (of 1-6 flowers) at the tips of the flowering branches. Each flower is subtended by two leafy flower bracts (1.5-2.5 cm long). These stalkless (i.e. sessile) flowers are predominantly white or cream, but may occasionally be pale yellow or purple-tinged (especially on their undersides). Each flower has six 'petals' (i.e. tepals or perianth segments) that are 3-4.5 cm long and joined together at the base into a short tube (i.e. corolla tube) about 15 mm long. They also have three stamens, with whitish anthers 7-8 mm long, and an ovary topped with a style ending in three short branches (about 10 mm long). Flowering occurs mainly during spring and early summer (i.e. from September to December).
The fruit is a capsule (up to 10 mm long by 7 mm wide) that turns light green to brown as it matures. These capsules contain several rounded (i.e. globose) seeds (about 2 mm across) that are black or reddish-black in colour.
Reproduction and Dispersal
The seeds and bulbils can be spread by slashing, mowing or water movement. Seeds, bulbils and 'bulbs' (i.e. corms) can also be dispersed in dumped garden refuse and soil-moving activities (e.g. earth-moving, road-making and grading).
Harlequin flower (Sparaxis bulbifera) is regarded as a significant environmental weed in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.
Harlequin flower (Sparaxis bulbifera) may be confused with tricolor harlequin flower (Sparaxis pillansii) and tritonia (Tritonia crocata ). These species can be distinguished by the following differences:
- harlequin flower (Sparaxis bulbifera) has white flowers with three white anthers. Its floral bracts are divided in two just below their tips.
- tricolor harlequin flower (Sparaxis pillansii) has colourful flowers (often red, orange or pink with yellow centres) with three yellow to brown anthers. Its floral bracts are divided in two just below their tips.
- tritonia (Tritonia crocata ) has white flowers with three white anthers. Its floral bracts have entire tips.
Not declared or considered noxious by any state government authorities.
Anonymous (2001). Sparaxis bulbifera (L.)Ker Gawl. Electronic Flora of South Australia species Fact Sheet. eFloraSA: Electronic Flora of South Australia. http://www.flora.sa.gov.au. Plant Biodiversity Centre, Government of South Australia (Department for Environment and Heritage), Hackney, South Australia.
Anonymous (2006). Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/index.pl. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, National Genetic Resources Program, Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Beltsville, Maryland, USA.
Barker, B., Barker, R., Jessop, J. and Vonow, H. (2005). Census of South Australian Vascular Plants. Fifth Edition. The Botanic Gardens of Adelaide and State Herbarium, Government of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia.
Brown, K. and Brooks, K. (2003). Controlling Sparaxis bulbifera (L.) Ker Gawl. invading a clay based wetland on the Swan Coastal Plain - control methods and observations on the reproductive biology. Plant Protection Quarterly 18: 26-30.
Buchanan, A.M. (2007). A Census of the Vascular Plants of Tasmania and Index to The Student s Flora of Tasmania. Web Edition for 2007. http://www.tmag.tas.gov.au/Herbarium/TasVascPlants.pdf. Tasmanian Herbarium, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG), Hobart, Tasmania.
James, T.A. and Brown, E.A. (2007). Sparaxis bulbifera (L.) Ker Gawl. New South Wales Flora Online. PlantNET - The Plant Information Network System of Botanic Gardens Trust. http://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au. Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, Sydney, New South Wales.
Keighery, G. and Longman, V. (2004). The naturalized vascular plants of Western Australia. 1: checklist, environmental weeds and distribution in IBRA regions. Plant Protection Quarterly 19: 12-32.
Lloyd, S. (2007). Bulb- and corm -producing plants that become bushland weeds. Gardennote Number 16. http://www.agric.wa.gov.au/content/PW/WEED/GN2004_016.PDF. Western Australian Department of Agriculture, Perth, Western Australia.
Spooner, A., Carpenter, J., Smith, G. and Spence, K. (2007). *Sparaxis bulbifera (L.) Ker Gawl. FloraBase: The Western Australian Flora. http://florabase.calm.wa.gov.au. Western Australian Herbarium, Department of Conservation and Land Management (CALM), Perth, Western Australia.
Walsh, N.G. and Stajsic, V. (2007). A Census of the Vascular Plants of Victoria. Eighth Edition. National Herbarium of Victoria, South Yarra, Victoria.