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Species profile—Graptophyllum excelsum


Plantae (plants) → Equisetopsida (land plants) → AcanthaceaeGraptophyllum excelsum

Photo of Graptophyllum excelsum () - Queensland Herbarium, DES (Licence: CC BY NC)

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Species details

Plantae (plants)
Equisetopsida (land plants)
Scientific name
Graptophyllum excelsum (F.Muell.) Druce
WildNet taxon ID
Alternate name(s)
scarlet fuchsia
native fuchsia
letter leaf
Nature Conservation Act 1992 (NCA) status
Near threatened
Conservation significant
Pest status
Graptophyllum excelsum is a dense shrub growing to 3 m tall and 1 m wide. The young branches have lines of glandular hairs along each stem-angle. The older branches are glabrous, often with short, crowded, axillary branchlets along the length of the main axes. Axillary spines are usually present. The leaves are roughly obovate or lanceolate, and between 2.5 to 4.0 cm long by 0.8 to 1.5 cm wide, and glabrous. The leaves are leathery and shiny green above, duller green below and gland-dotted. The leaf margins are entire or more usually with 2 to 3 tiny teeth either side and towards the apex. The leaf apex is acute or obtuse with a short mucro.
The inflorescences occur as axillary clusters of 1 to 4 flowers, which are either sessile or with very short peduncles. The bracteoles are 1.2 to 2 mm long, with short elongate hairs on the margin and external midrib. The flowers are tubular, blood-red or red-purple in colour, 28 to 30 mm long by 3.5 to 5.5 mm wide. The lower portions of the petals are fused into a tube about 10mm long and the calyx segments are 3 to 7 mm in length. The fruit is a capsule 17 to 27 mm in length. The seeds are 3 to 5 mm in diameter (Barker, 1986; Nicholson and Nicholson, 1988; Bean and Sharpe, 1991).
G. excelsum is characterised by consistently large red flowers, small leaves, entire of slightly toothed leaf margins and leaf pairs of approximately equal size (Bean and Sharpe, 1991).
Graptophyllum excelsum is located along the coastal regions from northern to southern Queensland. The most northern populations occur around Dimbulah and Chillagoe. Other locations include a number of populations between Townsville and Charters Towers; a single population at Kelsey Creek west of Proserpine, and most commonly collected in the Mount Etna and Chillagoe-Mount Mungana areas. The species is known from Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park, Mount Etna Caves National Park, Mount Archer National Park, Mingela State Forest, Bouldercombe Gorge Regional Reserve, Beecher State Forest, Rundle Range State Forest and Jimna State Forest (Pollock, 1997; Queensland Herbarium, 2012).
Distributional limits
-15.4837777, 144.383717
-26.6734113, 152.4760724
Range derivation
Range derived from extent of the taxon's verified records
Graptophyllum excelsum occurs in semi-evergreen vine thickets, although near Chillagoe the species has also been recorded growing in grassy woodland in association with Eucalyptus cullenii and Corymbia erythrophloia. Other associated species include Macropteranthes sp., Gyrocarpus americanus, Lysiphyllum hookeri, Acacia fasciculifera, Brachychiton australis, Polyscias elegans, Archidendropsis thozetiana, Gossia bidwillii, Alstonia constricta, Alyxia ruscifolia and Alchornea ilicifolia (Pollock, 1997; Queensland Herbarium, 2012).
Birds are thought to be the pollinators of G. excelsum. The flowers last for several weeks and then develop into capsules enclosing several seeds. It requires free-draining soil and is fire sensitive (Pollock, 1997).
Graptophyllum excelsum flowers throughout most of the year and fruits have been recorded for January, July and November (Queensland Herbarium, 2012).
Threatening processes
Current threats to Graptophyllum excelsum include habitat destruction by clearing. Current possible threatening processes include disturbance of habitat by weeds (e.g. Lantana camara; Ziziphus mauritiana and Cryptostegia grandiflora); and inappropriate fire regimes (Pollock, 1997).
Status notes
Graptophyllum excelsum is listed as Near Threatened under the Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992
Management documents
Pollock, A. (1997). Graptophyllum excelsum Species Management Profile, Department of Natural Resources, Queensland.
Management recommendations
Management objectives for the protection of Graptophyllum excelsum and its habitat include; the establishment of a protective buffer (0.25 ha) which excludes clearing with all G. excelsum at least 25 m inside the buffer; control or eradicate weeds where practical; evaluate impact of timber harvesting at G. excelsum sites; minimise risk of fire entering areas of vine thicket. To minimise the impact of legal collection on the species it is recommended when sales/research permits are issued, the responsible DPI Forestry officer is to consider which, if any local populations can sustain harvesting (Pollock, 1997).
Occurs in the following Queensland pastoral districts: Cook, Wide Bay, North Kennedy, Port Curtis (Bostock and Holland, 2010).
Barker, R.M. (1986). A taxonomic revision of Australian Acanthaceae. Journal of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens 9: 161-162.
Bean, A.R. and Sharpe, P.R. (1991). Notes on Graptophyllum Nees (Acanthaceae) in Australia. Austrobaileya 3 (3): 552-553.
Bostock, P.D. and Holland, A.E. (eds) (2010). Census of the Queensland Flora 2010. Queensland Herbarium, Department of Environment and Resource Management, Brisbane.
Nicholson, N. and Nicholson, H. (1988). Australian Rainforest Plants II. P33. Nicholson and Nicholson, The Channon, NSW.
Pollock, A.B. (1997). Graptophyllum excelsum Species Management Profile. Department of Natural Resources, Brisbane.
Queensland Herbarium (2012). Specimen label information. Queensland Herbarium. Accessed 21/07/2011.
Profile author
Lynise Wearne (20/01/2012)

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Data source

This profile data is sourced from the QLD Wildlife Data API using the Get species by ID function used under CC-By 4.0.

This information is sourced from the WildNet database managed by the Queensland Department of Environment and Science.

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Last updated
20 May 2024