Acaena microphylla AGM
Acaena microphylla has tiny white flowers appear like pincushions or pom poms in summer then developing into spiky red burrs that are the seed heads & really attractive on mass, with Acaena ’Purpurea’ being an exception. Acaena ’Purpurea’ has smaller seed heads without spikes & known as the purple spineless acaena.
Acaena after the Greek akina meaning a thorn, because of the spines on the calyces. Acaenas are easy to grow creeping perennials that do well in poor soil in full sun, but will also tolerate a semi-shady spot. Most species are evergreen, perennial & mat-forming plants that are good ground covering plants. As such they are often grown on graves or as a lawn substitute. They are native to New Zealand, Australia & South America hence one of the common names, New Zealand Burr. Several species of Acaena are called bidibid in New Zealand, which is the English version of the Maori word piripiri meaning to keep close, close together, stick,cling, adhere to which makes perfect sense when the sticky burrs of seed heads stick to animals as a way to distribute themselves.
Unfortunately in Northern Ireland these plants are listed on Schedule 9 of the Wildlife Order(1985),as amended, as an invasive non-native species so are discouraged.
However,Acaena microphylla has gained the RHS Award of Merit so can’t be all bad!
Tiny inconspicuous white flowers appear in rounded, closely packed heads like pincushions or pom poms in summer then developing into spiky red burrs that are the seed heads & really attractive on mass, with Acaena ’Purpurea’ being an exception. Acaena ’Purpurea’ has smaller seed heads without spikes & known as the purple spineless Acaena.
Common name: New Zealand burr, sheep’s burr, scarlet piripiri/bidi-bidi
Vigorous prostrate mats of bronze-tinted foliage covered with bright red burrs in summer
Spread. 30cm ++
Position: Poor soil in an open sunny position, but will also tolerate a little shade.
Use: Pathways, between paving, groundcover. Avoid planting near less vigorous species that it may smother.