Dianella caerulea

blue flax lily


Dianella caerulea

Sims 1801

pronounced: dy-an-ELL-uh key-ROO-lee-uh

(Liliaceae — the lily family)


common names: blue flax lily, Paroo lily, blueberry lily

native 4Dianella is the Latin diminutive of Diana, Roman goddess of hunting and queen of the woods - Little Diana. This genus was first found in the woods of a French province. Caerulea is from cæruleus, the deep blue of the Mediterranean sky at midday, referring to the colour of the ripe berries. The Paroo River rises in Queensland, near Charleville, and is part of the Murray-Darling system

The genus consists of about 30 rhizomatous herb or subshrub species, many of which are native to Australia. The plants enjoy a wide range of habitats and soil conditions, thriving both in dry woodlands and moist lowland forests. The species exhibits strap-like deep green leaves and up-curved blue, purple or white 6-tepaled flowers that hang a couple of centimetres above the yellow stamens.

Dianella caerulea is a small evergreen tufting perennial herb, growing up to 1 m tall, and spreading to a width of about 2.5 m, whose 7 varieties, assera, cærulea, cinerascens, petasmatodes, produnta, protensa and vannata, flower throughout the spring and summer. They are found in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and Tasmania. In addition, the plant has a long history of cultivation in the UK that stretches back to the last quarter of the 18th century, probably to 1783. The plant requires little maintenance in cultivation, and is hardy both to drought and to frost. It does not like too much shade. It can tolerate damp conditions, but prefers dry. It is very hardy, and long-lived once established.

The strap-like leaves are compressed into flat fans, and are usually 30 - 50 cm long, with a blade up to 2.5 cm wide. They are hard, stiff and glossy.

Flowers and fruits appear over the spring and summer, the flowers varying in colour between light and dark blue to mauve. The inflorescences are 3 – 25 flowered. The perianth is whitish to dark blue or blue-green; the outer tepals 7 – 11.5 mm long, 5 – 7-veined; the inner tepals 6 – 10 mm long, 3 – 5-veined. The stamens have filament swellings 1 – 3 mm long, yellow, and the anthers are yellow-brown.

The fruit is a berry roughly a centimetre in diameter.

The plant may be propagated by fresh ripe seed, or by division.

The caterpillars of the Large Dingy Skipper Toxidia peron feed on this plant.

This plant is one of those collected in 1770 by Banks and Solander during the voyage of the Endeavour. It was collected at the Endeavour River (Cooktown).

Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2009-2013, Nelly Bay 2015
Page last updated 10th December 2018