Dracophyllum prostratum


Dracophyllum: dragon leaf, from its likeness to the dragon tree of the Canary Islands
prostratum: prostrate

Current Conservation Status

2012 - Not Threatened

Conservation status of New Zealand indigenous vascular plants, 2012
The conservation status of all known New Zealand vascular plant taxa at the rank of species and below were reassessed in 2012 using the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZTCS). This report includes a statistical summary and brief notes on changes since 2009 and replaces all previous NZTCS lists for vascular plants. Authors: Peter J. de Lange, Jeremy R. Rolfe, Paul D. Champion, Shannel P. Courtney, Peter B. Heenan, John W. Barkla, Ewen K. Cameron, David A. Norton and Rodney A. Hitchmough. File size: 792KB

Previous Conservation Status

2009 - Not Threatened
2004 - Not Threatened


Dracophyllum prostratum Kirk



Brief Description

Very low-growing sprawling grey-green or green woody shrub with many very small narrow leaves covering the twigs inhabiting mountain areas of the southern South Island. Leaves 3-5mm long, gradually tapering to a broad base that clasps the stem. Flowers small, longer than leaves, white, solitary, at end of twigs.

Flora Category

Vascular - Native

NVS Species Code


The National Vegetation Survey (NVS) Databank is a physical archive and electronic databank containing records of over 94,000 vegetation survey plots - including data from over 19,000 permanent plots. NVS maintains a standard set of species code abbreviations that correspond to standard scientific plant names from the Ngä Tipu o Aotearoa - New Zealand Plants database.

Structural Class

Dicotyledonous Trees & Shrubs


Endemic. New Zealand: south Island (south of Arthur’s Pass)


Dracophyllum prostratum is a common species of subalpine to alpine habits where it grows in subalpine shrubland, alpine herbfield, fellfield, tussockland, bogs, cushion field or short grassland developed over alpine flushes.


Decumbent, prostrate trailing or cushion-forming shrublet 10–100 mm tall. Branches prostrate. Bark on old branches dark grey to blackish brown, smooth, young stems reddish brown. Leaves spirally arranged along branches, erect to appressed to the stem, glaucous to light green, old leaves present; lamina sheath 1.5–3.0 × 2.0–3.0 mm, shoulders tapering to rounded and margin membranous, ciliate; lamina 2.5–7.3 × 0.5–1.0 mm, linear to linear–triangular, adaxial surface flat to slightly concave, abaxial surface keeled; margins serrulate with 10–40 teeth per 10 mm (only at the apex); apex obtuse to acute. Inflorescence a sessile, solitary terminal flower; longer than leaves, erect. Inflorescence bract shorter than flower, 3.6–3.8 × 1.8–2.0 mm, ovate–lanceolate; margin serrulate; apex obtuse. Sepals 3.5–4.5 × 1.5–2.0 mm, lanceolate, shorter than corolla tube; margin ciliate. Corolla white; corolla tube 3.0–4.5 × 2.0–2.5 mm; cylindrical, corolla lobes 1.5–2.0 × 1.5–2.0 mm, reflexed, ovate–triangular, shorter than corolla tube, apex obtuse; inflexed for entire length, apical ridge present, adaxial surface papillate. Stamens inserted on corolla tube in the upper third, filament 0.2–0.3 mm long; anthers included, oblong, light yellow and 1.0–1.2 mm long. Ovary obovate, 1.0–1.5 × 0.8–1.0 mm, apex round; nectary scales 0.5–0.8 × 0.4–0.5 mm, rectangular, apices retuse to irregularly toothed; style included, 0.9–1.0 mm long, glabrous; stigma capitate. Fruit reddish brown, 1.5–2.0 × 1.4–1.5 mm; obovoid, apex truncate, glabrous. Seeds 0.45–0.7 mm long, light brown, ovoid, testa weakly reticulate.

Similar Taxa

Dracophyllum prostratum is easily recognised by its prostrate growth habit; dark brown and smooth bark; erect, clasping leaves (1.5–3.0 × 2–3 mm) with shortly ciliate sheaths, and by the solitary flowers with the sepals equal to or longer than the corolla tube. Of those other decumbent Dracophyllum species it is most similar to D. muscoides from which it differs by its distinctly prostrate growth habit, smooth bark, and leaves which have more teeth per 10 mm (10-40 cf. 5-10) and by the flowers which are diagnostically longer than the leaves. The sepals of D. prostratum are also shorter than the corolla tube (never equaling it) while the apex is acute rather than subacute to obtuse. The corolla lobes of D. prostratum are longer (1.5–2.0 cf. 1.0–1.5 mm) and have papillate adaxial rather than glabrous surfaces. The ovary of D. prostratum is obovate rather then ovate and narrower (0.8–1.0 cf. 1.4–1.5 mm) while the fruits are longer and wider.


December – February

Flower Colours



February - May

Propagation Technique

Difficult. Should not be removed from the wild. Don't be tempted - take photographs instead!


Not Threatened

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Where To Buy

Not commercially available.


Fact sheet prepared for NZPCN by P.J. de Lange (4 April 2012). Description adapted from Venter (2009)

References and further reading

Venter, S. 2009: A taxonomic revision of the genus Dracophyllum Labill. (Ericaceae). Unpublished Phd Thesis, Victoria University of Wellington,

This page last updated on 31 Oct 2013