Named in honour of Charles Sturt, who collected it during his journey to Central
Australia in 1844-45, the Sturt's Desert Rose has a number of common names
including the Darling River Rose, Cotton Rosebush and Australian Cotton. Some of
the names reflect that the plant is actually a member of the cotton family and
not a rose. The Sturt's Desert Rose belongs to the Family Malvaceae, Genus
Gossypium, which includes commercial cotton. However the hairs that cover the
seeds are much shorter than the lint on commercial cotton varieties.
The Sturt's Desert Rose was proclaimed the
floral emblem of the Northern Territory on the 12th July, 1961 by the then
Commonwealth Government responsible for the administration of the Territory.
Originally called Cienfugosia gossypioides, the Sturt's Desert Rose is
now known as Gossypium sturtianum var. sturtianum. It is also found on
the Northern Territory flag in stylised form, although there are two additional
petals added to the flag, together with the seven pointed black star in the
centre of the flower, representing the six Australian States and the Northern
The Sturt's Desert Rose can be a bushy woody shrub, although in poor soil it can
be open and straggly. It can grow up to 2 metres in height, with green, oval
shaped leaves. The leaves can vary in shades of green. The flower is borne on a
short stalk. The flowers have 5 petals, are mauve in colour, although a pale
white variation does occur. There are dark red markings at the centre of the
flower. The epicalyx has 3 segments, the style is undivided with a bulge at the
end. The style is surrounded by the stamens, except for the part extending above
the stamens. The style bulge opens to 5 stigmas.
The Sturt's Desert Rose is an arid zone plant, found growing on stony or rocky
ground or in dry creek beds. It can be found in Central Australia, extending
into the outback region of South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland.
Alice Spring will find them a common planting in the gardens, and can be
Olive Pink Botanic Garden and the
Alice Springs Desert Park.
More information on the
Desert Rose can be found at the Australian National Herbarium / Australian National Botanic