Commonly known as the red and green kangaroo paw or Mangles kangaroo paw, this is a plant species endemic to Western Australia, and in November, 1960 it was adopted as the floral emblem of our state in a proclamation made by then Premier David Brand. It appears on the armorial bearings of our state, framing the crown in the coat of arms. This is given to denote the sovereignty and independence of Western Australia:
The flower was also depicted on a 5 pence 1962 issue stamp to mark the British Empire and Commonwealth Games held in Perth that year, and in 1968 another stamp issue showed the kangaroo paw as part of a series on state floral emblems.
The flower has become symbolic of the region and the display between August and November is remarkable for the high standing flowers occurring in urban and coastal regions. The species is not threatened but is protected under legislation. A licence is required for collection from the wild. It is desirable as a cut flower, possessing an unusual form and striking colours that last well.
It is a member of the Anigozanthos genus and is a rhizotomous perennial with long, grey-green linear leaves around 30 cm (12 ins) to 60 cm (24 ins) long. The leaves extend from a central point at ground level. It red and green flowers appear at the end of long stalks and the flowers display in a sequence from the lowest point, following in a progression of development. The spent flower stalks remain long after their season and the length of these stalks from the base can be up to 1200mm (48 ins) tall.
The species is widely distributed throughout the southwest of Western Australia's biogeographic regions, preferring white, yellow or grey sand or sandy loam. It occurs in the northernmost part of its range from Geraldton to the Swan coastal plain near Perth. It also occurs in the jarrah forest and extends inland to the Avon wheatbelt. It does not reach the southern coasts.
The species was first described by Scottish botanist David Don in 1834. It is known to hybridise naturally with other Anigozanthos species so there are "variations on a theme".
Kangaroo paws germinate well from seed but as plants generally deteriorate after their second season, they are best treated as biennial (although other species will last in the garden for some years). Watering should be withheld during their dormant period. They are unfortunately susceptible to fungal ink spot disease and the leaves are attractive to snails.
These pictures show the flower shape compared to that of a kangaroo's paw:
There are other colours and forms of kangaroo paw, both natural and hybridised by man all of whichare very beautiful: