Fauna & Flora – Grass Trigger Plant

By Marj Webber

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Australian native plants. Flora GRASS TRIGGER PLANT (1)

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Tags: Australian native plants. Flora.

A truly amazing perennial herb is the Grass Trigger Plant. It is called a Trigger Plant because the flower actually has a trigger in the form of its club-shaped stamen which extends from the throat of the flower.

This is bent downwards and when an insect lands it sets off a spring-like action and sprays the insect with pollen. The insect then flies to other plants spreading the pollen. Only the Stylidium species have this trigger mechanism. The trigger sets itself and is cocked ready to operate again within 20-60 minutes. People are able to activate this action by touching the trigger with a small object and watching the response.

Australian native plants. Flora GRASS TRIGGER PLANT (1)
Note the Trigger

Trigger Plants are hardy, quite drought-resistant and grow in low nutrient, sandy soils in sunny areas and quickly rejuvenate after a fire. They have thin grasslike leaves and butterfly-shaped pink flowers with five petals on tall spikes up to 75cm with up to 25 flowers on each. Four of the petals are visible while the fifth is small and tucked behind the trigger and out of sight.

The flowering period is quite long from spring to autumn. Fruits are pods about 12 mm long. There are 130 species of Stylidium in the world with most to be found in Australia. Three species occur on Bribie Island and surrounding areas with graminifolium being the most common. They are widespread in Australia being found along coastal wallum areas and dry forests up to the mountains.

Australian native plants. Flora GRASS TRIGGER PLANT (1)
Note Butterfly- like Shape

During Captain Cook’s voyage up the east coast of Australia, Stylidiumgramini folium was one of only four Stylidium species collected by Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander. Stylidium is from the Greek Stylos referring to the stamens. Graminifolium is from the Latin gramineus which means grass-like and folium meaning a leaf.

Trigger Plants are not considered at risk but as for all wildflowers, much of their habitat is being developed. Sizable areas of the wonderful wildflower growing areas on Bribie Island have now gone and are covered by houses.

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