Our native plants: Wahlenbergia

Wahlenbergias go under the common name “native bluebell”, which threw me when I saw flowers in Tongariro National Park as they were white. It turns out that more often than not the flowers of Wahlenbergia albomarginata are white … so much for common names. (They’re also known as native bluebells in Australia, a country that has a different set of natives to New Zealand.)

The Wahlenbergias (named after a Swedish botanist) are our only native members of the campanula family.


Wahlenbergia albomarginata. Photo: Sandra Simpson

I have even been directed to some in flower under a washing line in Rotorua. The homeowner had a patch of gravel surrounding the upright of a Hill’s Hoist and these little plants were right at home there, flowering madly.


Also Wahlenbergia albomarginata, perhaps. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Wahlenbergia congesta is found on the West Coast of the South Island, W. matthewsii grows around Kaikoura, W. akaroa on Banks Peninsula and W. violacea on our offshore islands. I have read that there are 10 native species and they are all, apparently, good rockery plants, not difficult to grow and flower from November to February.

There are some great close-up photos of W. albomarginata on this website (scroll down).

Find a link to the New Zealand Alpine Garden Society here, the Scottish Rock Garden Club and the North American Rock Garden Society.


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