Focus Topic 30. Kangaroo Paws and Cats Paws
The Red and Green Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos manglesii) is a spectacularly large and showy flower that can only occurs in Western Australia. This iconic plant is the floral emblem of Western Australia and is also represented on the Coat of Arms. Kangaroo Paws have a basal clump of fleshy sword-shaped leaves that produce flowerings spikes about 1 m tall with showy red and green flowers in spring. Cats Paws are a smaller widespread species of Anigozanthos, producing orange furry flowers from stems about 30cm in height in spring. Anigozanthos species are related to Cottonheads (Conostylis) and Bloodroots (Haemodorum), as explained in Focus Topic 19. These species are not threatened, but like all wildflowers are protected under state legislation.
Both Cats Paws and Kangaroo Paws have large flowers on a sturdy stalk with amazingly complex adaptations for bird pollination. These include colours that are less attractive to insects, such as red and green, funnel-shaped flowers that fit a birds’ bill and head, nectar accessible to birds and a stem strong enough to support perching under flowers. Flowers are also arranged for efficient bird access and each flower bends sideways after pollination so the next flower faces birds perching on the stem. You may find honeyeaters visiting these flowers to feed on nectar and to pollinate them. Anigozanthos plants are most common several years after a fire which stimulates germination of soil-stored seed.