I first ran into this plant (not literally, and you’ll understand why I didn’t want that to be the case when you see the photo) in Clive Higgie’s Paloma gardens near Wanganui but had my interest pricked (if you’ll excuse the pun) after seeing it again in the Auckland Regional Botanic Gardens.
Native to Uruguay, western Argentina and southern Brazil, Colletia paradoxa is an autumn-flowering plant that, as you might guess, doesn’t have any trouble from browsing animals and grows slowly to 2m to 3m tall. The genus name honors French botanist Philibert Collet (1643-1718), while ‘paradoxa’ is from the Greek and means ‘unexpected’ or ‘strange’. The flowers have a sweet scent.
What appear to be leaves are actually flattened stems which do the photosynthesis for the plant. It does have leaves but they’re not particularly noticeable and are deciduous.
The plant has many common names including Thorn of the Cross, Anchor Plant and Jet Plane Plant.