Acaena microphylla – Ballyrobert Gardens

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Acaena microphylla

Acaena microphylla



About this cultivar:

Acaena microphylla is an evergreen perennial with prostrate rooting stems and small, pinnate leaves tinged bronze when young. Globular whitish flowerheads, on short stems, are followed by attractive reddish burrs. Their low growing mat-forming growth makes them an ideal rockery or ground cover plant. They are also often used for banks, edging, or in a gravel garden. I find they also look (and do) great in pots.

First formally described in 1852 by Joseph Dalton Hooker. The specific epithet, microphylla, derives from the Greek words, mikros (small) and phyllon (leaf) to give an adjective meaning 'small-leaved'. Commonly it is known by various names including Scarlet Piripiri, Bronze or Rosy Spined New Zealand Bur, Bronze New Zealand burr, and Scarlet Bidibid. However it will probably only go a rusty red if in a dry area.

In Hookers 'The botany of the Antarctic voyage of H.M. discovery ships Erebus and Terror in the Years 1839-1843 :under the command of Captain Sir James Clark Ross' published in 1853 he wrote 'a very small and glabrous species; the leaflets not 1/4 in. long. Capitula very large for the size of the plant, upwards of an inch across, including the spines, which are not barbate, and distinguish it as a species'

  • Position: Full sun, partial shade
  • Soil: Almost any soil 
  • Flowers: July, August
  • Other features: Bees, Butterflies, and Bugs
  • Hardiness: Fully Hardy - Grows well in Ballyrobert, H5 - Hardy in most places throughout the UK even in severe winters (-15 to -10°C)
  • Habit: Mat forming
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Height: 0 to 5 cm  ( 0 - 0.2 ft)
  • Spread: 0 to 200 cm  ( 0 - 6 ft)
  • Time to full growth: 2 to 5 years
  • Plant type: Herbaceous Perennial
  • Colour: Green, blue
  • Goes well with: Wall, Fence

About this genus:

Acaena is a genus of about 100 species of mainly evergreen, creeping herbaceous perennial plants and subshrubs in the Rose family (Rosaceae), native mainly to the Southern Hemisphere, but with a few species extending into the Northern Hemisphere. But they do not look like Roses!

Mainly ground cover type plants, the leaves are alternate and often pinnate, you’ll likely not notice because they are usually small. The flowers are produced in a tight ball 1–2 cm in diameter, with no petals. So not really noticeable. The fruit is also a dense ball of many seeds which can give structure over winter. Like a miniature Echinops.

Several Acaena species in New Zealand are known by one of my favourite common names: bidibid. The word is written variously bidi-bidi, biddy-biddy, biddi-biddi, biddi-bid with other variations. These names are nothing to do with any Old Biddy but the English rendition of the original Māori name of piripiri. The plant is also called the New Zealand burr. The genus name Acaena is derived from the Greek "akaina" (thorn), referring to the spiny hip (technically hypanthium).

In the garden – basically use as ground cover and to fill gaps around rocks, paths and edges. They seem to grow most places that are not too extreme. Don’t like winter wet!