Wilsonia backhousei


Wilsonia: Named after John Wilson, 18th century amateur botanist and author of A Synopsis of British Plants, published in 1744

Common Name(s)

narrow-leaved wilsonia

Current Conservation Status

2012 - Non Resident Native - Coloniser

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 - Non Resident Native - Coloniser
2004 - Non Resident Native - Vagrant


2012 - SO
2009 - SO


Wilsonia backhousei Hook.f.



Flora Category

Vascular - Native

Structural Class

Dicotyledonous Herbs other than Composites




Indigenous. In New Zealand known only from the Waimea Estuary, Nelson where it was first discovered in 1993. Common in Australia where it is known from Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania.


A species of usually silty to muddy ground within estuaries, usually found growing just above the mean high tide mark in places which would be subjected to frequent salt-water immersion during storms or Spring/King tides.


Small procumbent subshrub forming dense patches up to 1 x 1 m. branches procumbent up to 150 mm tall, more or less glabrous. Leaves more or less succulent, sessile, 5-20 x 10-3 mm, glaucous to dark green, linear-lanceolate to linear-obovate, apex acute, base attenuate, glabrous. Flowers solitary; pedicels 0-1.5 mm long, calyx 5-7 mm long, tubular, teeth 5, triangular, 1/4 to 1/3 the length of tube, outer surface glabrous, inner pilose hairy; corolla 10 mm long, tubular white; 5-lobed, lobes 2-4 mm long, linear-ovate to linear-elliptic, acute; stamens 5, exserted, filaments attached 1-1.5 mm below throat; ovary 1-2-locular, style exserted, stigmas ovoid. Capsule c.3 mm long, obovoid, shorter than calyx, indehiscent (capsules rarely seen in New Zealand material). Seeds 1-2.

Similar Taxa

None. Though the grey-green, succulent leaves mean that sterile plants could be confused with Suaeda novae-zelandiae Allan which grows in similar habitats. From Suaeda, Wilsonia differs by its more upright growth habit and solitary, white, tubular non-bracteolate rather than the compact green or red-green, bracteolate flowers of Suaeda.


October - February

Flower Colours

Violet / Purple


December - April (rarely produced in New Zealand)

Propagation Technique

Easily grown from stem cuttings. However, requires a water logged soil in full sun to flourish. In good conditions inclined to become invasive.


Not Threatened. Apparently a recent arrival ( at least there are no records of it prior to 1993) which has successfully colonised the Waimea Estuary. It shoudl probably no longer be regarded as a vagrant, despite the fact it rarely sets seed. For it spreads readily by asexual means.

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Where To Buy

Not commercially available

Cultural Use/Importance

Actively and aggressively spreading, this species may require management and control. It could be introduced. As far as is known all spread is vegetative, fruit being rarely (if ever) formed in New Zealand populations


Fact Sheet prepared for the NZPCN by P.J. de Lange 14 April 2006. Description by P.J. de Lange.

This page last updated on 7 May 2014