Recently I was delighted to find a third Wurmbea lily in the Narrogin area, the delightful Wurmbea drummondii. Wurmbeas are associated with unrequited love, medicine, aromas and of course, sex. They flower in June-July.
Wurmbeas (common name ‘nancies’ are named a after a German aristocratic botanist named Friedrich von Wurmb (1742-1781). Friedrich and his brother fell in love with the same woman until he generously Joined the Dutch East India Company in Indonesia and studied palms and orangutans. I wonder whether the woman’s name was Nancy, or she had any say in the matter?
The genus Wurmbea is in the family Colchicaceae (a folk remedy for rheumatism) that contains the alkaloid colchicine. Gout-riddled red wine drinkers rejoice. Before you graze, it has also been implicated in livestock deaths.
I think that flies are main pollinators. Apparently some wurmbeas emit an odour to attract coprophagous (poo-loving) flies. However, I asked my sensitive sniffer wife to smell Wurmbea tenella flowers and she reported a sweet aroma.
Wurmbeas are the LGBTI equivalent of us in the plant world.
Some species are straight with normal flowers containing both male (anthers) and female (pistil and ovary) parts.
An example, Wurmbea sinora occurs uncommonly on gravelly soil in Foxes Lair.
Some species have male and female plants (dioecious).
Stressed flowers produce less seed in a flower that has to maintain both male and female parts. In more stressful locations dioecious plants are more successful because each flower can put all its resources into male or female flowers. A good example is April-flowering dodonaea humifusa that sprawls over rocks in red clay on the Granite Walk.
Andromonoecious plants have normal flowers as well as male flowers on youngest growth. Apparently, this occurs rarely in Wurmbea drummondii. Note that flowers tend to become redder with age.