Mature fruits. Tas.  Photo © W.R.Barker

Young and old fruits. Tas.  Photo © W.R.Barker


Hakea epiglottis Labill., Nov. Holl. Pl. 1: 30, t. 40 (1805) ssp. epiglottis


Conchium epiglottis (Labill.) Willd., Enum. Pl. 1: 141 (1809). T: Capite Van Diemen, [Tas.], J.Labillardière s.n.; syn: FI n.v., G, G-DC, K p.p., OXF, P, TCD (label only).


Conchium teretifolium C.F.Gaertn., Suppl. Carp. 3: 217, t. 219 (1807). T: Labillardière collection; holo: not located, probably one of the duplicates of the type of H. epiglottis.


[Hakea rostrata auct. non F.Muell. ex Meisn.: W.Curtis, Students Fl. Tasmania 3: 609 (1967), p.p.]


[Hakea rugosa auct. non R.Br.: W.Curtis, Students Fl. Tasmania 3: 609 (1967), p.p.]


Functionally unisexual shrub, rarely hermaphrodite, compact, to 3 m high. Leaves terete, 1.5–7.5 (–11) cm long, 1–2 mm wide.

Inflorescence on male plants with 2–8 flowers, on female plants with 1–3 flowers; involucre 3–4 mm long; rachis c. 1 mm long; pedicels 3.5–5 mm long, densely white appressed-sericeous, with hairs extending on to perianth. Perianth 2.5–4 mm long, with same-coloured hairs throughout claw and limb, pale yellow inside. Pistil recurved, 5.5–6.5 mm long; pollen presenter an oblique disc, 0.5–0.6 mm long, concave in male flowers, with a conical protuberance in female flowers; gland a slightly curved rectangular flap, 0.1–0.3 mm high.

Fruit sigmoidal, 1.4–2.6 cm long, 0.6–1.2 cm wide. Seed 9–12 mm long; wing partly down one side of seed body only.

Distribution and ecology

Found throughout Tas. except for the north-eastern coast; grows in shrubby heaths, often at higher altitudes, but also known from coastal areas.

To plot an up to date distribution map based on herbarium collections for this species see Australia's Virtual Herbarium. Localities outside the native range may represent cultivated or naturalised records.

Flowering time

Flowers Aug.–Dec.

Derivation of name

From epi, Greek for upon and glottis, Greek for mouth of the windpipe, perhaps a reference by the author to a perceived resemblance of the fruit to the upper respiratory system. 


How the infraspecific taxa differ

The two subspecies differ only in the hairs of a similar colour throughout the perianth in ssp. epiglottis compared with the claw with whitish hairs and the limb with ferruginous hairs in ssp. milliganii.

Ssp. milliganii is confined to the west coast of Tasmania in the Zeehan to Macquarie Harbour area whereas ssp. epiglottis is much more widely spread, occurring in all but the north-eastern part of Tasmania.


Part of Section Hakea of Bentham (as Euhakea) and characterised by a non-conical pollen presenter, leaves without obvious venation, perianths with or without hairs and fruits with or without horns. Barker et al. (1999) recognised a number of informal morphological groups within the section.

The Rostrata group all share the characteristics of pubescent pedicel and perianth, oblique pollen presenter and woody, sigmoid fruits which are retained on the bushes.

Members of the group are H. cyclocarpa, H. epiglottis, H. megadenia , H. rostrata and H. rugosa .


Many populations consist of unisexual plants, i.e. either male plants or female plants. Unisexual plants in populations can be detected by examining the plants for fruit. Plants producing fruit (female) usually have no pollen within the flower, while those plants lacking fruit may be immature or male with the flowers producing pollen only. Plants on which fruit occur together with flowers producing pollen are bisexual. A number of populations of bisexual plants have been documented in Lee (1987), and the problem is discussed in more detail in Barker (1991).

H.M.Lee, The biology of Hakea epiglottis, Austral. J. Bot. 35: 689–699 (1987); R.M.Barker, Towards a revision of the Hakea epiglottis Labill. (Proteaceae) complex ofTasmania, in M.R.Banks et al. (eds), Aspects of Tasmanian Botany: a Tribute to Winifred Curtis, pp. 79–84 (1991).

Representative specimens

Tas.: road into L. St Clair, 18 Oct. 1971, M.Allan s.n. (HO); 1 km S of Barnes Hill, 3 Oct. 1985, H.J.Bayly-Stark s.n. (HO); Wombat Moor, Mt Field Natl Park, A.M.Gray 577 (HO, MEL); Longley, Dec. 1912, L.Rodway s.n. (HO).


More photographs of this species can be seen on the Australian National Botanic Gardens site and on the University of Tasmania Flora of Mt Field site.  

This species features in Louisa Anne Meredith's 1891 Wooden Fruits painting, a copy of which is projected on the State Library of Tasmania’s Tasmanian Images.