Welcome to Beating Around the Bush, a series that profiles native plants: part gardening column, part dispatches from country, entirely Australian. Read more about the series here or get in touch to pitch a plant at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I first became interested in guinea flowers when I heard of a plant growing in Queensland’s White Mountains nicknamed “excruciating” by all who handled it, because of the pungent needle-like leaves which attached themselves to fingers and clothes.
This species is a guinea flower, now scientifically named Hibbertia ferox, meaning “fierce”. Guinea flowers grow across Australia, from the rainforest to semi-arid areas.
Guinea flowers belong to the genus Hibbertia, which dates back to Gondwana. Members of the genus are easy to recognise, but individual species are hard to tell apart. Their brilliant yellow (or sometimes orange) flowers have petals with a notch at the apex, and they were thought to resemble the appearance of the 18th-century coin known as a golden guinea. As usual there are a couple of exceptions – at least two species have petals that lack a notch.
All too often these small shrubs and woody climbers grow in areas likely to be razed for urban sprawl or mining.
Authors: Betsy Jackes, Adjunct professor, James Cook University