Callistemon rugulosus

Callistemon rugulosus

Scarlet bottlebrush


38 x 52cm

Watercolour and graphite on Fabriano Artistico extra white cotton rag 600 gsm

Private collection

Bottlebrushes are members of the genus Callistemon and belong to the family Myrtaceae. They are closely related to paperbark melaleucas, which also have 'bottlebrush' shaped flower spikes. It is difficult to tell to which genus some species belong. Botanists are currently closely studying these plants to determine how they are best classified. There are 40 species currently called Callistemon.

The flower spikes of bottlebrushes form in spring and summer and are made up of a number of individual flowers. The pollen of the flower forms on the tip of a long coloured filament. It is these filaments which give the flower spike its colour and distinctive 'bottlebrush' shape. The filaments of this species, rugulosus, are pinkish-red, with a bright flush of yellow pollen at the ends.

Each flower produces a small woody fruit containing hundreds of tiny seeds. These fruits form in clusters along the stem, and are usually held on the plant for many years. The seeds are usually not released from the fruits for several years, but in some species the fruits open after about a year. Fire also stimulates the opening of the fruits in some bottlebrushes.

The new leaves are very ornamental. They have a red flush are covered with fine, soft hairs.

Heidi decided that it was necessary to depict the reproductive parts of the flower more clearly, hence the pencil drawing of the dissected flower, showing the filaments and style more clearly, and how they attach. This element has been magnified by a factor of two.

The painting process was dizzying, having to depict the depth of the flower heads by showing filaments towards the front as more defined, and ensuring each filament was trained back into its home pod correctly. But the beautiful colours of the Australian bush shine through such a plant, and it's lovely to have the scent of the Australian bush in the studio.

The information above was partly derived from the Australian National Botanic Gardens website.