The (Un) Common Fringe Lily

Common Fringe Lilies (thysonatus tuberosus) are flowering now at the edges of Pilyara’s shady messmate gullies. Their botanical name tuberosus comes from their edible root. These lilies should be given a new everyday name though, as there is nothing common about them. They are wildflowers of exquisite charm.


Fringe Lilies grow on low stalks, that bear a few slender, basal leaves. The flowers appear at the end of short branchlets. Each purple petal is edged with a delicate, feathery fringe, highlighting the bloom with a halo effect. In between each petal is a sepal of deeper mauve, like a narrow satin ribbon. Their perfection is ephemeral – each flower lasts just one day. So lovely, yet so fleeting. The plant itself flowers for several weeks though, so there is plenty of time to catch the beauty of a new bloom. 



This watercolour painting of a Fringe Lily is part of the Ducie Collection of First Fleet Art. The artist’s name is George Raper. He was a naval officer and talented illustrator. Unfortunately he was only twenty eight years old when he died. (1769-1797) The image is courtesy of The National Library of Australia. It proves this lovely little lily was one of the very first native flowers to attract international acclaim. How fortunate am I to be able to see them flowering in the wild, just metres from my house!

5 thoughts on “The (Un) Common Fringe Lily

  1. The fringe lily is new to me, living as I do in Texas. I’m pleased to read that your father owned a nursery specialising in native plants, and to see that you’re continuing the tradition. I’ve been in Australia only once, six years ago, and I was taken aback when I went for a walk one day and found some lantana, which is native here in Texas, growing in the wild there.

    Steve Schwartzman

  2. Hi Steve,
    Lovely to hear from you. My blog is quite new, as you can see, and comments are much appreciated. Lantana was first introduced to Australia in the 1840s as an ornamental garden plant. It has become highly invasive and now covers over 5% of the Australian land mass. I’ve never been to the United States, but I have heard reports of our native Eucalyptus trees becoming pests over there too.

    • You’re right, Jennifer; California in particular has lots and lots of eucalyptus trees. I haven’t been to California since I became an advocate for native species, but now I might enjoy the eucalyptus trees there less than I used to. If you ever come to Texas you can enjoy lantana in its native habitat and not have to dislike it (though even here we have non-native lantana species that the garden trade has disseminated).

      Best wishes for your new blog. I’ve been at mine for half a year: it’s been fun, but lots of work.

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