Broad leafed Star hair
Astrotricha latifolia is a mid to large shrub, 1 to 3 metres high, with lax spreading branches. It is an understory shrub of wet schlerophyll forest or rainforest margins along the east coast of Australia from about Bega in the south right up the Queensland coast. It is not fussy about soil types being found on shale, quartzite, sandstone, basalt and clay based soils.
The name Astrotricha comes from Astro meaning star and tricha meaning hair - from the dense woolly star-shaped hairs covering the stems and underside of the leaves of this plant. You can clearly see the dense mass of white hairs covering the leaf stalks, stems and branches of the shrub. The new leaf shoots and tiny new leaves are also covered in hairs.
Leaves are about 15 cm long and 2 – 8 cm wide, broadly oval to lanceolate in shape with a slightly drawn out tip, dark green above, sometimes glossy, and woolly beneath with a leaf stalk roughly 4 - 8 cm long. The leaves are held horizontally radiating around the woolly (floccose) stems. The leaves are heavily veined with an obvious indented mid vein and clearly defined lateral veins.
Notice the long leaf stalks, (often as long as the leaf is wide). The length of the stalks is one of the major differences between Astrotricha latifolia and its close relative Astrotricha floccosa (Woolly Star-hair). This is a useful aid in identification when the shrubs are not in flower as there are many similarities between the shrubs.
They flower late spring to summer (October to January). Flowers are typical of the Araliacae, individually tiny but clustered in branched umbels at the ends of stems.
Although each individual flower is small when grouped in large umbels on the ends of the branches they are very noticeable. Each tiny flower consists of five strongly reflexed petals with 5 stamens attached to a disc which surmounts the ovary. They are yellowish green in colour. Even the buds are covered in white hairs.
The flowers are popular with insects, including a variety of beetles. Spiders and robber flies lurk waiting for the visitors to fly in.
It is not only the flowers that are popular, the leaves too have their share of visitors. The leaves of Astrotricha latifolia are always chewed. At any time of the year you will find leaves with holes in them and generally an abundance of visiting insects, particularly spring and summer.
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Flowers in Australia
(updated 27 June 2009)