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What is Bowenia?

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  • Written By: Dee S.
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 27 September 2016
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Bowenia is the genus name for two species of evergreen perennials: B. spectabilis and B. serrulata. These fern-like plants are only native to Australia. Both species of Bowenia have dark green leaves and cone-like flowers. They grow best in sandy lowlands and warm, tropical areas.

The name Bowenia was chosen to honor the first governor of Queensland, Australia, Sir George Bowen. Although there are only two species in the genus Bowenia, there are also two additional species that have been discovered in the form of fossils. Leaf fragments of B. eocenica were discovered during excavations in a coal mine near Victoria, Australia. The second fossil species, B. papillosa, was found in New South Wales, Australia. Both fossil species are from the Eocene era, approximately 40 million years ago.

Depending on the climate, Bowenia can be grown either inside or outside. If they are grown inside a home or greenhouse, they should be planted in soil containing equal amounts of sand, leaf mold, and rough bark. They should also have access to bright light, plenty of water, and monthly fertilizer. If Bowenia is grown outside, the climate must be mild and free from frost. In addition, the plant should be protected from strong winds and heavy rainfall, yet it should receive partial sunlight.

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Of the two living species, B. serrulata grows best in sandy areas. In fact, the plant is able to push its roots more than 6 feet deep (about 1.8 m) through the Australian sand. In addition, it can grow to 7 feet (about 2.1 m) tall. In the alternative, B. spectabilis prefers wet soil, such as that found in the northern section of Queensland. It can grow to be 5 feet (about 1.5 m) tall, but it may also grow just as wide.

People may be able to distinguish B. spectabilis from B. serrulata because of the shape of their leaves. The leaves of B. serrulata are thinner than those of the B. spectablilis. In addition, they have slightly serrated or jagged edges. B. spectabilis has smoother, rounder leaves, without jagged edges. Its leaves almost seem glossy or leathery.

Because of the leaves of both species of Bowenia are attractive, they were regularly collected for use in flower arrangements. In the past, people harvesting the leaves could apply for a license to harvest in a specific area. Because the plants grow very slowly, they are now protected. As a result, they are not commonly used in flower arrangements, but silk or plastic versions are quite popular.

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