Scaevola spinescens caught people’s attention during our recent outing to remnant bush at the edge of the JCU Douglas campus. The small patch we visited has a remarkable variety of native plants still holding out amid surrounding property development. Unfortunately this little patch is under ever-increasing pressure from invasive weed species.
Scaevola spinescens typically grows as a small shrub with attractive soft growth after rain (photo above). Over time the branches become prickly, as indicated by the common name Spiny Fan Flower. Attractive small flowers appear intermittently throughout the year, followed by tiny purple-black fruits that attract birds and provide bush tucker when ripe (photo below).
Although Scaevola spinescens typically grows on drier slopes amid open forest, it has also been recorded in diverse habitat, even beside salt pans near Townsville (photo below, two decades ago).
Some planted specimens have been growing well in suburban North Ward over recent years and it appears this species is remarkably hardy and adaptable to different growing conditions.
For Indigenous Australians, Scaevola spinescens has a long history of traditional use for treating injuries and illnesses. The plant’s pharmaceutical potential has attracted scientific interest and researchers have begun to study its medicinal properties.