Yellow kangaroo paw flowers

Kangaroo Paw

Anigozanthos spp. and Macropidia fuliginosa
  • DIVISION: Magnoliophyta
  • CLASS: Liliopsida
  • ORDER: Commelinales
  • FAMILY: Haemodoraceae
  • GENUS AND SPECIES: Macropidia fuliginosa and seven Anigozanthos species



Waving a cheerful red and yellow "hello" as you enter Nairobi Village at the the Safari Park is kangaroo paw Anigozanthos flavidus. This whimsical plant gets its common name from its woolly, tubular flowers, which open to look like a kangaroo’s curved fingers. Although they’ve become a common site in California gardens, kangaroo paws are native to southwestern Australia. There they grow wild in sunny areas that get winter rain, and can be seen growing along roadsides. They’re pollinated by birds and small nectar-feeding possums. As a bird (or possum) feeds on the nectar deep inside a flower, pollen rubs off the anthers and onto its head. As the bird flits from flower to flower, it distributes pollen onto the stigmas of other flowers while picking up more pollen.


Long—up to 6.5 feet (2 meters)—leafless flower stalks arise from a clump of strap-like leaves. At the tip of the stalk, velvety, tubular flowers grow in fan-like panicles. When a fuzzy flower bud splits open, six petals, curved at the tips (and reminiscent of a kangaroo’s claws), fan out to expose the pollen-bearing stamens and the pollen-accepting stigma, born on the central style. Depending on species, a kangaroo paw flower can be yellow, green, red, pink, orange, or brown. Some plants die back during a hot, dry summer or after a fire, but a thick, underground stem called a rhizome will shoot forth a new clump of leaves in autumn, when conditions are more favorable.


Kangaroo paws do best in a sunny spot with well-draining, dry, sandy soil, although some cultivars tolerate a variety of soil types. After your kangaroo paw flowers, you can remove the leaves and divide the rhizome. Kangaroo paws have become popular, water-efficient plants in California gardens, where they attract hummingbirds.

little kangaroo paw

Little Kangaroo Paw

A. bicolor
tall kangaroo paw

Tall Kangaroo Paw

A. flavidus

The hardiest and most common species in cultivation, tall kangaroo paw can reach six feet (almost two meters) tall.

dwarf kangaroo paw

Dwarf Kangaroo Paw

A. gabrielae
red and green kangaroo paw

Red and Green Kangaroo Paw

A. manglesii

The lovely red and green flowers of this species are the emblem of the state of Western Australia.

golden kangaroo paw

Golden Kangaroo Paw

A. pulcherrimus

Yellow flowers grow on reddish stalks.

red kangaroo paw

Red Kangaroo Paw

A. rufus
green kangaroo paw

Green Kangaroo Paw

A. viridis
Black kangaroo paw

Black Kangaroo Paw

Macropidia fuliginosa

The only species in the genus, this black-and-lime-green flowering kangaroo paw is in the same family as the Anigozanthos species.

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Look for kangaroo paws in Nairobi Village at the Safari Park and at Sydney's Grill at the Zoo.


In the Aboriginal Australian Nyungar language, kangaroo paws are called nol-la-mara.


Another four species in the Anigozanthos genus are known as “cat’s paws.”


Kangaroo paws are grown for the cut-flower trade in Australia, Israel, Japan, and the US.


More Animals & Plants from San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park