Flame Heath (Astroloma conostephioides)

Flame Heath Astroloma conostephioides
Prolific red flowers are everywhere

Common names: Flame Heath

Taxonomic name: Astroloma conostephioides

Family: Ericaceae

Habitat: Mallee and woodlands

Form: shrub to 1 metre

Flowering time: Summer


Description

When it’s in flower, you can’t miss Flame Heath (which has the unwieldy taxonomic name Astroloma conostephioides) in the bush – it’s everywhere! It is one of the most common Heaths in the Mallee and woodlands around Gawler.

A prickly bush up to a metre tall with flame red flowers that hang downward. The flowers have 5 petals arranged in a tubular structure. Its flowers are, to say the least, prolific and fall easily from the bush leaving a bright red carpet after a strong wind has been through.

The blue green leaves are spiky, but not so sharp as our Native Currant (Acrotriche depressa). They stand out from the stem and have their edges rolled downwards.

Uses

Flame Heath has an edible berry but my favourite thing is the little drop of nectar to be found in the base of most of the flowers.

To get to the nectar, you have to punch off a flower and pop off the base then squeeze the bottom of the tube gently. Then you will be rewarded with a tiny drop of sweetness.

Flame Heath flower tube
Pop off the base of the flower tube.
Flame Heath nectar
That little drop of nectar (pardon the grubby fingernails!)

It’s a pretty small drop. It took me ages of camera and flower juggling to get the pic of the droplet in the picture above. Of course, you can just eat the whole flower, but the taste of the petals masks the sugary taste of the nectar.

The flowers dry out around the seed, so there’s not really much of a fruit, but the seeds are crunchy and edible, though not too tasty.

Edible fruit/seed.
Edible fruit/seed.