The Upside Down Plant

Makes sense, doesn’t it, calling this an ‘upside down plant’, given that the flowers are at the bottom?! I’ve often seen this is my grandmother’s wildflower book and wished I could meet one, but it has (until now) eluded me.


The love-of-my-life, husband Stephen Lawrence, has the credit for finding this one. We were 100 km out of Alice, heading north, when I started twitching in my seat making yearning noises about the honey grevilleas I could see. My beautiful husband kindly pulled over, as he always does, in service of my flower-photography passion. I jumped out of the car with my cameras and took off into the scrub, walking straight through this grove without ever seeing it until Stephen called me back.


This one will go down in history as Stephen’s first flower essence, because he not only found the flower, he started tuning in, before I did. First, he noticed he had a specific song in his head. “The girl is mine…. I don’t understand the way you think, saying that she’s yours not mine. Sending roses and your silly things, because she’s mine…. the doggone girl is mine…”

“It’s for treating jealousy”, was his conclusion. I love this idea, because it fits nicely with the signature of the plant itself: the top of the plant is a netting of sharp spikes protecting the flower below, like a man with a sword fending off a fellow suitor. The flower is a metaphor for love, for treasure, for the person who is being fought over or protected in a territorial way. The ‘thorns’ can be protective, combative, competitive… but they could also be used to pierce through the blinkers that blind us, the over-protective armour that smothers us, or the closed heart that only has room for one. They reminded Stephen of a crown of thorns, which is usually a reference to martyrdom, so we’ll need to explore that too (the suffering hero archetype).


My grandmother Anne Urban writes about this flower in her book “Flowers and Plants of Inland Australia”. I’m the publisher for this book and with help from some amazing botanists in Alice, we’re in the midst for creating an updated edition. The plant names have gone through a major overhaul over the past few years!

As far as I can tell, this one is Leptosema chambersii. The flowers produce abundant nectar, which Stephen also picked up on…. He insisted on picking one of the flowers, pulling it apart and sniffing it. According to Peter Latz (Bushfires and Bushtucker) East Arrernte mob call this one “umpe”.

So now it’s my turn to tune in, and talk to this flower spirit and Gaia, about the spirit medicine of this plant:

Over-guarding the heart

This is for people with trust issues, who initially come across as being a little ‘spiky’ or unfriendly. When you get to know them, when they feel safe with you, they open right up and you realise that they’re multifaceted; they have a sweet, soft side.

If you tend to be a bit wary about opening yourself up, revealing yourself and being vulnerable with others, this may be good spirit medicine for you! For some of us, being guarded is a primary personality trait. For others, it can be a temporary phase after relationships set-backs and heartbreak, where we’re readjusting our personal boundaries and learning how to be more discerning.


Likewise, if you’re too easily put off by ‘unfriendly’ people who don’t immediately warm to you, the spirit medicine of this flower can help you ‘see past’ the spikes or the wall that’s been put up, and persevere, primarily in terms of being patient and/or persisting with overtures of friendship. Some people need time! There’s an art to keeping your door open without being invasive or pushy in your quest to connect.


Jealousy (over-guarding one’s love)

As per Stephen’s insights above, this flower spirit treats jealousy and possessiveness in love. This is an excellent spirit-helper if you tend to feel neglected by loved ones, and jealous when their time and attention is focused elsewhere. It’s worth pointing out that jealousy is a perfectly valid and understandable emotional response in many situations. Your partner spends more time at the pub partying with mates than s/he does with you? Jealousy would be a pretty normal response. Your best friend finds a new friend and starts spending more time with them than you. You have a second child and the first one feels forgotten and pushed aside. Your partner’s hobby takes up all their spare time. Your boss has a new favourite (not you). Your girlfriend loves her job so much she works weekends! We can’t address it if we don’t talk about it and it often surprises me how reluctant we are to discuss jealousy.

People have lots of different ways of responding to jealousy. We don’t all take up arms or take to the rooftops to declare our love and claim out ‘territory’. Some of us give up too easily. We slink off, or fade into the background. We surrender too easily, almost as though being pushed out of the equation is a foregone conclusion. I personally think this can be as problematic as being possessively territorial! You need to let people know what you need, how and why they matter to you. Sometimes, you really do need to stake your claim. So if you have a tendency to slip into resentment or obscurity whenever anyone outshines you or momentarily forgets you, Leptosema will help you make a bit more noise and not be a martyr.

There’s another angle here too:

Feeling smothered

Remember the girl in Stephen’s song that he picked up on psychically with his clairaudient ability? “The girl is mine…” It’s a nice compliment, being wanted, but the shine on that can tarnish pretty quickly when jealousy becomes possessive, suspicious or controlling. I’m a feminist and a freedom junkie so if I was the girl in that song I’d be kicking up a stink about belonging to myself and having plenty of love in my heart to go around.

The spirit medicine of this flower can give us room to breathe and have a stronger sense of self, rather than being owned and over-protected by another. It isn’t always going to be a lover who does this, and sometimes the feeling of being smothered is subjective. Friends and family can be possessive and protective, smothering us with well-meaning love that can feel suffocating. We can also get this feeling as new parents adjusting to the constant needs of a baby.

And what about what happens when we burn out as healers and carers? Same feeling: “Get me out of here!” That subjective feeling of being smothered can also be a post-traumatic response after escaping controlling relationships. And that can make it hard to connect, because even small shows of care and commitment from the other person can trigger the instinct to run.