Hybanthus stellaroides

orange spade flower


Hybanthus stellarioides

(Domin) P.I.Forst. 1993

pronounced: hy-BAN-thuss stell-ah-ROY-deez

(Violaceae — the pansy family)

synonym — Hybanthus enneaspermus ssp. stellarioides

Domin 1928

pronounced: hy-BAN-thuss en-nee-uh-SPER-muss subspecies stell-ah-ROY-deez

common name: orange spade flower

native 4Hybanthus comes from the Greek 'υβος (hybos), hump-backed, and ανθος (anthos), a flower, referring to the spurred lower petal; stellarioides is a hybrid word: Latin stella, a star, and Greek –οιδες (-oides), like, resembling.

Hybanthus is a genus of over 150 species occurring widely in Asia, Africa and the Americas as well as in Australia, where 10 species are endemic. It is closely related to Viola, the main difference being that it has one petal much larger than the other, giving the appearance of having only a single petal. Members of the genus are usually herbaceous perennials or small sub-shrubs usually less than 50 cm high.

Hybanthus stellarioides is a very similar plant to Hybanthus enneaspermus, and, indeed, was until fairly recently considered a subspecies of the other. There is still much confusion as to its taxonomy. It is very much rarer on Magnetic Island than H. enneaspermus, being more common further south.

This species also tends to grow rather taller than Hybanthus enneaspermus, and is found up to 30 cm tall. It is usually found in sandy areas or rocky open places in eucalypt-dominated communities, heathland and in wooded grassland in coastal and sub-coastal areas in eastern Australia from Sydney north as far as Bundaberg. It also occurs more sparsely in Cape York Peninsula and north-eastern Queensland. The altitudinal range is from near sea-level to 1000 m. The stems have scattered sparse hairs.

The alternate leaves are linear, linear-lanceolate or elliptic to ovate, 1 – 8 cm long, 2 – 8 mm wide, the upper surface a darker green than the lower; the margins are curved downward and backward, and may be entire or dentate; there are linear stipules, up to 1 mm long.

The solitary flowers are very tiny, spade-shaped, with sepals 2.5 – 4.5 mm long. The petals are orange or yellow, the lower petal spatulate, the upper petals linear-oblong, 3 – 4 mm long; the lateral petals are 4 – 5 mm long.

A seed capsule is produced, 5.5 – 7.5 mm long; there are 5 – 10 yellow seeds, ovoid-ellipsoid, more-or-less pitted between the ribs.

This is a host plant for the common glasswing butterflies.

As with the lilac spade flower, all parts of this plant are used medicinally and in magic.


Photograph taken on Hawkings Point, 2011, and The Forts walk, 2017
Page last updated 14th January 2019