Anigozanthos is the genus of a flowering plant native to Southwestern Australia and better known as kangaroo paw. The genus contains 11 species of rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plants. While anigozanthos only grows in the wild of Australia, some varieties are grown commercially in the United States and elsewhere. Anigozanthos manglesii, with flowers that range in size from 2 inches to 4 inches (5 to 10 centimeters), is the official flower of Western Australia. Its dramatic appearance makes it popular as a cut flower and in home gardens.
The flowers of the anigozanthos are tubular and split, with six finger-like or claw-like petals appearing on the top side of the flower. The blooms are typically brightly colored, and tiny hairs in a contrasting color can be seen on the petals. The blossoms are shaped to aid in pollination by birds, with pollen-laden anthers situated so the pollen will fall on a bird’s head when it rests on the plant’s stalk. Different species of anigozanthos deposit their pollen on the bird’s head and the pollen is redistributed to the next plant the bird visits. The pollen of different species is rarely intermingled, even when sharing the same bird’s head as a pollinator.
Anigozanthos plants are usually cultivated from seeds, rather than from cuttings, in large part because the herbaceous nature of the plant doesn’t lend itself to sturdy, healthy cuttings. Instead, herbaceous plants are often treated like annuals; angizanthos is considered a short-lived perennial with a typical life span of less than five years. Once the seeds are planted in well-drained soil with plenty of sun during spring or summer, it typically takes a year for the plant to start flowering.
Kangaroo paw grows in clumps that can be divided to prolong the life of the plant, though removing the clumps and replacing them with fresh plants is common. Anigozanthos is dormant during colder months, with some plants dying back almost completely. Some gardeners trim the plants back in late winter to remove weather-damaged foliage in an attempt to avoid disease. Among the most common problems is a fungus that causes ink disease, which leads to black spots appearing on the plant’s leaves. Removing and burning affected foliage is considered one of the best forms of treating ink disease. Some cultivars are designed to be resistant to ink disease.
Kangaroo paw has long been used in aboriginal medicine and is used in some contemporary health and beauty products, though its exact benefits are unclear. The fuzz on the plant can irritate the skin.