Kangaroo Paw Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

In this lesson, you'll take a trip to Australia to learn about an unusual plant that grows there. Read on to find out why this plant is called the kangaroo paw, what it looks like, and other interesting facts.

A Kangaroo Plant?

You've probably heard of kangaroos that live in Australia, but did you know that there is a plant called the kangaroo paw? The kangaroo paw plant actually has nothing to do with kangaroos, except that both the plant and the animal are native to Australia. These plants are so popular that they are the official floral emblem of Western Australia, where they have grown for millions of years.

Kangaroo Paw
paw

Kangaroo paw plants have flowers that look like fans and grow in rows. They resemble the paw of an animal, which explains their name. The Nyoongar, an indigenous, or native, aboriginal people of Australia called these flowers, 'nol-la-mara.' Mangle's kangaroo paw, which is a red and green type of the plant, was used in aboriginal medicine.

Kangaroo paw plants grow only in tropical climates, where it's relatively hot and the temperature stays about the same all year long. Tropical climates also have a lot of rainfall, making them ideal places for plants to grow. In fact, kangaroo paw plants grow best if they have at least one inch of rainfall every week.

Kangaroo Paws and Honeyeater Birds

You might know that in order to make seeds and reproduce, plants need pollen. Insects often carry pollen from plant to plant. Over many, many years, some plants have actually developed shapes that fit to the animal that pollinates them. The kangaroo paw plant has developed its shape so that it attracts honeyeater birds.

Each of the different species, or types, of kangaroo paw plants are shaped a little differently, so that when the honeyeater bird lands on the kangaroo paw to gather nectar from the flower, the plant's pollen rubs off on the bird, who then carries it to other kangaroo paw plants. The interesting thing is that each type of kangaroo paw plant is shaped so that its pollen goes on a different part of the bird's head. Because of this, the honeyeater birds can deliver pollen for each species of kangaroo paw to the exact species of kangaroo paw that needs it!

Colorful and Large Flowers

The flowers on kangaroo paw plants come in many different colors; yellow, orange, and white are the most common, but they are also white and pink. The flowers, which bloom mostly in the spring and summer, are covered with a very thick, soft fuzz, making them look almost like velvet.

Velvety Flowers
paw2

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