In designing a new garden or redesigning an old one, my aim is to create a wildlife-friendly haven that conveys both a sense of unity and a sense of place. The natural landscape is my main source of inspiration.
In all but the smallest garden, trees are first on the agenda. They provide the third dimension and garden framework for shrubs, grasses, groundcovers and other plants.
Every populated region of Australia offers a plentiful range of trees suited to the above objectives. Living and working in Sydney for nineteen years, the main focus here is on trees indigenous to the Sydney region. (Many of these trees also occur elsewhere, particularly in coastal regions of New South Wales, southern Queensland and Victoria. North Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia are all very different, each with its own vegetation and wildlife and its own regional identity.)
In many situations, tree selection is limited by factors such as: anticipated eventual height and spread, shadow cast, overhead powerlines where these are present, and the extent of root systems and their proximity to underground services and building foundations. While these factors may limit selection and inhibit the use of some beautiful trees (and some not so beautiful), many smaller species readily take their place.
Where space is available though, there are dozens of large, beautiful eucalypts and other indigenous trees occurring in the Sydney region, and of course in most other populated regions of Australia. Some personal local favourites include: Angophora costata, Corymbia eximia, Corymbia maculata, Eucalyptus punctata, Eucalyptus sideroxylon, Eucalyptus teretecornis, Eucalyptus viminalis, Toona ciliata.
Non-indigenous trees of exceptional beauty, that are both visually compatible with the indigenous vegetation and seem to be non-invasive, include Stenocarpus sinuatus (Queensland and northern NSW) and Magnolia grandiflora (South-eastern USA), particularly its dwarf form, ‘Little Gem’.
For a quick screen, Acacias (Wattles) are unsurpassed. They enrich the soil by fixing atmospheric nitrogen through Rhizobium bacteria that live in nodules on their roots, and they attract insectivorous and seed-eating birds. The genus includes many useful landscaping trees, a few with bipinnate leaves, most with phyllodes (flattened leaf stalks that function as leaves). As they tend to have a relatively short life span, more enduring trees may be planted nearby, to close the gap left when the wattles die. Desirable species include:
Acacia decurrens, a hardy, upright tree with dainty, dark green, bipinnate leaves, with deep yellow ball-shaped flowers appearing in spring. Attractive, useful, fast growing and short lived. Acacia mearnsii and Acacia parramattensis, both with cream-coloured flowers, are similar, the latter displaying them in summer.
Acacia fimbriata (Fringed Wattle) is a small, slightly weeping tree with soft narrow phyllodes. Masses of tiny, bright yellow flower balls appear from early spring and exude an unmistakable scent. It occurs in scattered locations around Sydney and is easily grown in well-drained soils with some moisture.
Acacia floribunda (Sally Wattle) has drooping branches and slender phyllodes, its pale yellow flower spikes appearing throughout spring. It occurs in sheltered areas around Sydney, often near watercourses, and will grow in all except very dry soils.
Acacia prominens (Gosford Wattle) is a very attractive small to medium tree with narrow blue-grey phyllodes, uncommon in the Sydney region. It bears bright yellow scented flower balls in winter and spring. Gosford Wattle is a forest tree that thrives in sun or shade with adequate moisture. Untypical of the genus, it is generally long-lived.
Rainforest trees in cultivation generally reach about one third of their usual height and spread. Lillypillies and many other rainforest species are ideally suited to urban gardens, because they thrive in shade or part shade and respond well to enriched garden soils.
Acmena is one of several Lillypilly genera that includes Syzygium and others. Acmena smithii is a shapely, bushy tree, characterised by small glossy leaves, masses of small white flowers and showy, edible, pink or purple fruits. Generally a small to medium tree in cultivation.
Allocasuarina and Casuarina species (She-oaks) are recognised by their long narrow green branchlets, the leaves surrounding them being reduced to almost invisible scales (cladodes). Wind blowing through the branchlets creates musical whispering sounds, soothing to the soul. Golden-brown male flower spikes are produced at the ends of the upper branchlets, and small red female flowers followed by brown patterned seed-cones, appear lower down on the same or separate trees. Many birds, including finches, lorikeets and cockatoos build nests in these trees and feed on the flowers and seeds.
Most She-oaks are tolerant of dry conditions and indifferent soils including saline soils. Like wattles and members of the pea family they fix atmospheric nitrogen through nodules on their roots, enriching impoverished soils. They make excellent windbreaks or specimen trees, fast growing and frost-resistant, and their furrowed bark is an ideal host for epiphytic orchids. They are also useful for soil stabilisation and erosion control.
The fallen branchlets provide a soft ground cover, pleasant to walk and sit on, although few other plants manage to penetrate this layer. This is one reason the She-oak is sometimes regarded as an ideal tree for children’s playgrounds and situations where a shrub layer is not wanted. It is also an excellent climbing tree for children of about 7 or 8 and older; in this litigious age however, I hesitate to recommend it for this purpose.
Allocasuarina torulosa, the beautiful Forest Oak, prefers a fertile soil and may easily reach 15 metres, while Allocasuarina verticillata (Drooping She-oak), a spreading tree of variable height from three to 12 metres, prefers dry shale or sandy soils.
Allocasuarina littoralis (Black She-oak) is an attractive upright tree seldom exceeding 10 metres. Male and female flowers appear in May and June at the ends of slender slightly weeping dark-green branchlets, fertilised female flowers developing into small cylindrical cones. Black she-oak is generally found in open forest and woodland, growing on poor, dry, free-draining soils on the coast and tablelands of Queensland, NSW, Victoria and Tasmania. It often grows in pure stands and looks good in informal groups. It also makes an excellent specimen tree for the small garden or courtyard.
Angophora costata (Sydney Red Gum) is a fast growing medium to large tree of real character. It is easily identified by its gnarled, spreading limbs, narrow, drooping, deep green leaves and smooth orange-pink bark, often mottled with patches of grey and numerous small dimples. Many bird species feed on the massed displays of fluffy white flowers that appear at the ends of branches during spring and summer. A beautiful specimen tree where space is available. As it develops vigorous roots and tends to drop branches in windy conditions, it is not for every garden. Its dwarf cultivar ‘Little Gumball’, reaches about 7 metres and is better suited to the smaller garden although it produces fewer flowers.
Angophora hispida (Dwarf Apple) with rough bark and stem-clasping leaves, produces eye-catching bunches of white flowers in summer. A small tree, popular with birds and well suited to small spaces.
Archirhodomyrtus beckleri (Rose Myrtle) occurs on the edges of rainforest from Queensland to the NSW central coast. It is a small weeping tree with aromatic glossy ovate leaves, and white or pink flowers, followed by long lasting red or yellow fruits. Easily cultivated and popular with birds, it deserves to be more widely grown in the small garden.
Worldwide there are about 2800 palm species, each with one or other of two basic leaf types: feather leaf and fan leaf. Of the 57 Australian species, a feather palm Archontophoenix cunninghamiana (Bangalow Palm), and a fan palm Livistona australis (Cabbage Tree Palm), are the only palms indigenous to the Sydney region, although the Bangalow Palm does not occur in metropolitan Sydney.
Archontophoenix cunninghamiana is a slender, fast growing tree with a smooth grey trunk, reaching about 10 to 15 metres. An arching crown of mid-green pinnate leaves about 3 metres long emerges from a brownish-purple crownshaft. Fragrant mauve flowers, attractive to butterflies, appear between December and April, followed by bright red fleshy fruits, food for many native birds including Crimson Rosella, Lewin’s Honeyeater and Satin Bowerbird.
Bangalows are generally found in coastal rainforest, between Mackay in Queensland and Bateman’s Bay in New South Wales, in damp situations such as sheltered gullies and lining the banks of streams and swamps.
A single Bangalow Palm growing as a specimen tree appears oddly isolated. It looks much better grown in stands, as in nature, with individual plants at different stages of development, sometimes in pure stands, sometimes mingling with other trees and understorey shrubs and ferns. It look marvellous when used like this in sheltered places and shaded ‘rainforest’ gardens, and scattered around swimming pools, lagoons and large ponds.
Backhousia is a small genus of bushy rainforest trees and shrubs, endemic to Australia. They all produce aromatic foliage and massed clusters of white star-like flowers.
Backhousia myrtifolia (Grey Myrtle) is a small tree, or sometimes a large shrub, with foliage dense to the ground. It flowers in spring and summer, the prominent fleshy calyces continuing into autumn. It makes an excellent screen in a sheltered position with moist soil, and its scaly bark is an ideal host for ferns and epiphytic orchids.
Grey Myrtle occurs from Fraser Island in Queensland to the NSW south coast and southern tablelands.
Backhousia citriodora (Lemon-scented Myrtle) is of similar dimensions, and occurs from central to south-eastern Queensland. It is widely grown for its highly aromatic foliage.
Banksia is a genus of about 80 species of trees and shrubs, with large tubular flower spikes that attract a wide spectrum of honeyeaters, seed eaters and insectivorous birds. Most Banksia species are endemic to Western Australia.
Of the eastern species, Banksia integrifolia (Coast Banksia) is a small slender tree with dark green oblanceolate leaves, silvery on the undersides. Highly recommended as a fast growing coastal windbreak or specimen tree for sandy soil and dry conditions, its lightly scented yellow flower spikes appear in autumn and last until late winter. Coast Banksia occurs in dunes and coastal forests from Fraser Island to Melbourne.
Also recommended is Banksia serrata (Old Man Banksia), a small gnarled tree of great character, with knobbly textured bark, large leathery serrated leaves and large grey-green flower spikes in summer. Its habitat and cultural needs are similar to Banksia integrifolia. Old Man Banksia occurs through coastal Queensland, NSW, Victoria and Tasmania.
Brachychiton acerifolius (Illawarra FlameTree) A medium to large tree with shiny maple-like leaves. In most years it sheds its leaves before putting on a spectacular display of bright red bell-like flowers that cover the canopy, and last from mid spring to summer. In some years, only one or two branches manage to flower.
Flame tree is fast growing, tolerates dry conditions, thrives in almost any well-drained soil, and attracts butterflies and insectivorous birds. It makes an outstanding specimen tree or windbreak, and is a superior substitute for the American Sweet Gum Liquidambar styraciflua. Flame tree is found in coastal rainforest from North Queensland to Shoalhaven, NSW.
Callicoma serratifolia (Black Wattle) The original wattle, before Acacia acquired the name. It is a tall, fast growing, very attractive shrub or small tree with long, slender branches and light green, serrated elliptical leaves. Masses of fluffy, creamy white globular flowers appear in spring and early summer. It thrives in any moist soil, in sun or shade, and attracts insectivorous birds and butterflies.
Black Wattle is usually found near water, and formerly graced the banks of creeks entering the bay between Glebe and Pyrmont in Sydney’s inner west. The trees there have all been destroyed, their places taken by assorted exotics and concrete drains. Only the name, Blackwattle Bay, remains.
Black Wattle occurs in coastal rainforest and wet sclerophyll forest, from north Queensland to the NSW south coast.
Callistemon is a genus of shrubs and small trees, often found in damp situations. About a dozen species occur in the Sydney region.
Callistemon salignus (Willow Bottlebrush) is a small, fast growing, very hardy tree with a slightly weeping habit, papery bark, pink new growth and cream or pink flower spikes in spring and early summer. Although usually found in damp places, it tolerates dry conditions. Willow Bottlebrush makes a useful screen, specimen or windbreak in a sunny position, and attracts a wide variety of native birds. It is found in Queensland and coastal NSW.
Callitris is a small genus of conifers, and the only genus in the Cupressaceae family to occur in the Sydney region. According to forest ecologist, the late Wilfred de Beuzeville:
“Callitris species have outstanding qualities which place them far above the exotic Cupressus . . . whether for utility or for ornament there is a Native Cypress suitable for almost every purpose. They are of very great beauty, fast growing, remarkably free from disease, very hardy and mostly very drought and cold resistant.” (Australian Trees for Australian Planting)
Callitris rhomboidea (Port Jackson Cypress) is a small slender tree with foliage dense to the ground. It is frost tolerant, thrives in dry conditions in almost any well-drained soil and makes a striking specimen, screen or accent plant. Its density, texture and soft green colouring combine as a perfect foil to woodland eucalypts. It attracts parrots and other seed-eaters, and is useful as a windbreak and for erosion control. It occurs along the coast and tablelands of Queensland, NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia.
Callitris muelleri is similar in appearance, with a more restricted distribution.
Casuarina glauca (Swamp Oak) is a graceful, medium tree, with long, slender branchlets. It is similar in most respects to trees of the closely related genus Allocasuarina. Although tolerant of dry soils, Swamp Oak is better suited to damp situations, as it generally grows close to coastal estuaries, lakes and tidal flats. It is widespread from Queensland to the south coast.
Ceratopetalum apetalum (Coachwood) is a fast growing, usually bushy tree of medium height in cultivation, with finely serrated lanceolate leaves. It is easily identified by the pale horizontal bands and patches of lichen covering its smoooth, grey, scented bark. Its conspicuous greenish-white flowers resemble those of Ceratopetalum gummiferum (New South Wales Christmas Bush), becoming bright red as they mature in early summer. It makes an impressive specimen tree for a ‘rainforest’ garden with moist soil, and attracts numerous insectivorous birds. It occurs from South-eastern Queensland to Batemans Bay, NSW.
Clereodendrum tomentosum (Hairy Clereodendrum) is a small, hardy, fast growing tree, often seen on rainforest margins. It has hairy ovate leaves and produces fragrant white flowers in spring, followed by prominent dark blue fruits surrounded by bright red calyces. It attracts seed-eaters and insectivorous birds, and many species of butterfly. Hairy Clereodendrum occurs across northern Australia and down the east coast to the Victorian border.
Clereodendrum floribundum (Lolly Tree) has smooth leaves and is otherwise very similar.
Corymbia species (Bloodwoods) are identified by their large, goblet shaped fruits and prominent flower clusters. Separated from Eucalyptus several years ago, taxonomists are debating their return, together with Angophora, close relations not previously included.
Corymbia eximia (Yellow Bloodwood) is a fast growing, small to medium tree, with a gnarled and spreading habit, conspicuous, flaky yellow-brown bark and large sickle shaped grey-green leaves. Clusters of scented white flowers appear in spring. It is tolerant of poor dry soil, makes an excellent specimen or windbreak, and attracts a wide variety of native birds. Yellow Bloodwood occurs throughout coastal NSW, and is particularly prevalent between the Hunter Valley and Nowra. A more attractive tree, though less common than Red Bloodwood, Corymbia gummifera.
Corymbia maculata (Spotted Gum) is a tall, upright, fast growing tree with smooth, cream and grey mottled bark and a high open crown of narrow mid-green leaves. Its scented white flowers appear throughout winter. Although usually occurring in heavy soils, it thrives in most including saline soils, in both dry and intermittently very wet conditions. It is also fire-retardant, tolerant of atmospheric pollution and very popular with native birds. As it develops a vigorous root system, it should be planted well clear of buildings and sewer lines. It occurs from Bundaberg in Queensland to the south coast of NSW.
Its close relation Corymbia citriodora (Lemon-scented Gum), an equally beautiful, more sparsely branched tree with smooth, pale pink or white bark, occurs around Queensland’s central coast.
For ecological reasons, Western Australian bloodwoods are better suited to Western Australia, and their commercial hybrids entirely avoided.
Cupaniopsis anacardioides (Tuckeroo) is a small spreading tree with a dense crown of leathery, dark green pinnate leaves. Panicles of small scented yellow flowers in autumn are followed by conspicuous orange-yellow capsules, devoured by fig birds and other seed-eaters. Tuckeroo is easily cultivated in any soil, growing much faster in protected sites on well composted soil. Found both in coastal rainforest and exposed coastal areas, it makes an excellent windbreak. It occurs in PNG, across northern Australia and down the east coast to the Illawarra region.
Cyathea (Tree Fern) is a large genus of over 800 species, of which 12 occur in Australia, three in the Sydney region.
Cyathea cooperi (Scaly Tree Fern) is a graceful, very fast growing tree reaching about 8 metres in cultivation. It is easily identified by the pattern of oval scars that remain on its slender trunk after spent fronds have fallen. This, and the unfurling croziers and canopy of arching, lacy, light green fronds, make it a striking feature, especially when grown close to water, in a protected position in association with native palms and other rainforest species. It prefers shade and tolerates sun. Scaly Tree Fern occurs in rainforest and sheltered forest from Cooktown, Queensland to the Illawarra region of NSW.
Cyathea australis (Rough Tree Fern) is distinguished from Cyathea cooperi by the persistent stipe bases left by fallen fronds. It is very hardy and often occurs in more exposed positions.
Diospyros, meaning ‘fruit of the gods’, is a large genus of tropical rainforest trees that includes about 15 Australian species.
Diospyros australis (Black Plum) is a small, slow-growing tree reaching about 7 metres in cultivation. It has shiny, dark green leaves and it produces small white flowers from mid spring to summer, followed by large black edible berries, an important food source for fruit-eating birds including Rose-crowned Fruit Dove and Topknot Pigeon. It is easily grown in deep to light shade, preferring a moist position and fertile soil with free drainage. Black Plum occurs in coastal rainforest from north Queensland to the south coast of New South Wales.
Diploglottis australis, syn. D. cunninghamii (Native Tamarind). A highly ornamental tree reaching about 20 metres, instantly recognisable by its very large pinnate leaves and rusty velvet new growth. The juicy orange fruits, eaten by many birds, make a refreshing, acidic drink and may also be used for making jam. Native Tamarind is fast growing and easily cultivated in well-drained fertile soil in sun or shade. An excellent specimen tree for the large garden, it occurs in rainforest from south-eastern Queensland to the Illawarra region of New South Wales.
Ehretia acuminata (Koda) A very attractive tree with dark green leaves, that seldom exceeds 10 metres in cultivation. It is deciduous for a few weeks in winter. Large panicles of small white, fragrant flowers appear throughout summer and autumn, followed by juicy, sweet-tasting orange or yellow drupes. It flowers and fruits from an early age and attracts many birds to the garden. Koda is fast growing, tolerates sun or shade and thrives in most soils with free drainage. It is found in coastal rainforest from Cape York, Queensland to Bega, New South Wales. It also occurs in India and south-east Asia.
Elaeocarpus is a large genus of about 200 species, occurring mainly in south-east Asia. About 25 species occur in Australia, four in the Sydney region.
Elaeocarpus obovatus (Hard Quandong, Blueberry Ash) is a fast-growing tree with a dense canopy of light green leaves, that reaches about 10 metres in the garden. During spring it produces masses of fringed white flowers that resemble lily-of-the-valley, followed by shiny, dark blue fruits that attract many birds. It is very hardy and tolerates wet soils with impeded drainage. Hard Quandong occurs alongside creeks and littoral rainforest from the central coast of Queensland to the central coast of New South Wales.
Elaeocarpus reticulatus (Blueberry Ash), the most widely grown of the genus, is an exceptionally hardy large shrub or small tree with glossy, dark green leaves, that reaches about 8 metres. Masses of pink or white bell-shaped flowers appear between late spring and early summer, followed by shiny bright blue berries, an important food source for bowerbirds and other seed-eaters. Fast growing in fertile soil with some moisture, it also tolerates exposed conditions in poor dry soils. Blueberry Ash may be used as a specimen or grown amongst other forest trees. It occurs in open forest and on the edges of rainforest, from south-eastern Queensland, through eastern Victoria to Tasmania.
Elaeocarpus holopetalus (Black Olive Berry) is a large shrub or small bushy tree, to about 8 metres. Unlike other Elaeocarpus species, the flower petals are without a fringe. It occurs in sheltered gullies in cool temperate rainforest between northern New South Wales and eastern Victoria.
Emmenosperma alphitonioides (Yellow Ash) is a handsome, fast-growing, spreading tree that reaches about 15 to 20 metres in cultivation, too large for the average garden. Masses of small white flowers appear in spring, followed in autumn by orange-yellow berries and bright red seeds that attract many birds. It is best grown in a protected position in fertile, well-composted soil, or it may succumb to attack by borers. Yellow Ash occurs in coastal rainforest from north Queensland to south-east New South Wales.
Endiandra sieberi (Pink Walnut) is a bushy, small to medium tree with deeply fissured, fire resistant bark and long, shiny, dark green leaves. Masses of small white flowers appear in winter and spring, followed by glossy black berries, food for many birds. It is often found on poor sandy soils and is easily grown. Pink Walnut occurs in coastal rainforest and adjacent open forest from central Queensland to south-east New South Wales.
The majority of eucalypts grow too large for the average garden and some are of little ornamental value. Ornamental species originating in Western Australia (Eucalyptus caesia for example), are adapted to dry summers with low humidity, and often turn up their toes and die when exposed to humid east coast summers. If you wish to retain or restore a sense of place, they also tend to look misplaced on this side of Australia.
All eucalypts need a fair amount of sun, and most will struggle to survive beneath the canopy of taller trees. Given suitable conditions, the following species are recommended for gardens in the Sydney region.
Eucalyptus cinerea (Argyle Apple) A fast-growing, small to medium, slightly crooked tree that has rough persistent bark, and usually retains its round, silvery-grey juvenile leaves. White flowers appear in spring and early summer. It tolerates atmospheric pollution, frost and Phytophthora cinnamomi, and makes a striking feature, shade and windbreak tree. It attracts insectivorous and seed-eating birds, and is also one of about 35 Eucalyptus species that koalas like to feed on. Argyle Apple is generally found south-west of Sydney and in eastern Victoria, growing on poor, dry soils.
Eucalyptus elata (River Peppermint) A very attractive, fast-growing, slightly weeping, medium to tall tree with a smooth white upper trunk and branches, and open canopy of long, narrow blue-green leaves with a peppermint aroma. Large inflorescences appear from late winter to early summer. Where space is available, it makes an outstanding specimen and shade tree, tolerant of periodic inundation and attractive to a wide variety of birds. River Peppermint occurs on moist, fertile soils in wet and dry sclerophyll forest, often along riverbanks and creeks, between the central coast of New South Wales and Victoria.
Eucalyptus haemastoma (Broad-leaf Scribbly Gum) is one of three closely related species indigenous to the Sydney region. It is usually a small crooked, slightly weeping tree with an open crown of slender bluish-green leaves. It produces masses of creamy white flowers in spring and early summer. The smooth white and grey bark is indented with numerous ‘scribbles’, formed by the burrowing action of a small moth larva; the scribbles are revealed as the tree sheds its old bark during spring. The trunk is often divided low down. To achieve this effect in the garden, plant three tubestock or small container plants in the same planting hole. As they develop, they appear as a single, spreading three-trunked tree. Broad-leaf Scribbly Gum is fast growing, attracts many birds, tolerates most well drained soils including saline soils, and makes a good windbreak. It also feeds koalas. It occurs on infertile, sandy soils between the north and central coasts of New South Wales, and it sometimes intergrades with Eucalyptus sclerophylla (Hard-leaf Scribbly Gum) in its westerly distribution; and with Eucalyptus racemosa (Narrow-leaf Scribbly Gum), a taller tree usually found on deeper, more nutritious soils south of Port Jackson.
Eucalyptus luehmanniana (Yellow-top Ash) A very attractive mallee with multiple smooth white stems, drooping branches and large stiff leaves, that seldom exceeds 6 metres. It flowers between winter and spring, makes a good windbreak and attracts insectivorous birds and seedeaters. Yellow-top Ash is found on wet, sandy soils with impeded drainage, and has a restricted distribution between Gosford and Bulli.
Eucalyptus mannifera ssp. maculosa (White Brittle Gum) A fast-growing, slender, sometimes multi-trunked tree with a weeping habit, smooth white bark and narrow leaves. White flowers last from mid-spring to early summer. It attracts insectivorous birds and seedeaters. Although it prefers a sandy soil, it also grows on clay. White Brittle Gum is found in dry sclerophyll woodland and forest between the New South Wales central coast and north-eastern Victoria.
Eucalyptus microcorys (Tallowwood) is a tall, fast-growing tree with spongy, light brown bark and a dense canopy of thin green leaves. It produces masses of small white flowers from late winter to late spring. In parks and large gardens it makes an excellent shade and windbreak tree, resistant to Phytophthora cinnamomi and attractive to birds and koalas. Tallowwood occurs in wet sclerophyll forest on moist, fertile soils, between south-eastern Queensland and Cooranbong, New South Wales.
Eucalyptus multicaulis (Whipstick Mallee Ash) is a compact, multi-stemmed tree with smooth bark, purplish new growth and an abundance of creamy white flowers, mostly in winter and sporadically at other times. It reaches around 6 or 7 metres. Although tolerant of most soils, it usually inhabits dry sandstone areas; it makes a good windbreak and attracts a wide variety of birds. Whipstick Mallee Ash occurs from the central coast to the Blue Mountains and southern New South Wales.
Eucalyptus punctata (Grey Gum) A very attractive, medium tree with an open crown of dark green leaves. It is easily recognised by its grey mottled bark that sheds to reveal bright orange patches, particularly noticeable after rainfall. It makes a good windbreak, attracts many birds and its foliage is a favourite food of koalas. It is found on a wide range of soils in dry sclerophyll forest. Grey Gum occurs between the New South Wales central coast and Jervis Bay. Eucalyptus propinqua (Small-fruited Grey Gum) occurs from south-east Queensland to the central coast of NSW.
Eucalyptus sideroxylon (Mugga Ironbark) is an outstanding, fast-growing tree of medium height, with hard, deeply furrowed dark brown to black bark, long blue-grey leaves and creamy white, pink or red flowers. Throughout its long flowering period, from late autumn to late spring, the red-flowered form is exceptionally beautiful, superior to the cream or insipid pale pink forms sometimes encountered. Flower colour cannot be predicted with certainty of course, because eucalypts are usually grown from seed. It makes a useful windbreak, adaptable to most soils including saline soils, tolerant of atmospheric pollution and very dry conditions. It is also highly attractive to native birds. Mugga Ironbark occurs sporadically on the clay soils of Sydney’s west and the Cumberland plain, extending across the western slopes and plains between southeastern Queensland and Wodonga, Victoria.
Eucalyptus tereticornis (Forest Red Gum) An attractive, fast-growing tree with smooth, mottled white, grey and blue bark and an open canopy of long narrow blue-green leaves, a staple food for koalas. Appearing in winter and spring, the white flowers are rich in nectar and attract many birds. Forest Red Gum is resistant to Phytophthora cinnamomi and makes a good windbreak, specimen and shade tree that thrives on most soils. It has a wide distribution, from New Guinea, along the coast and tablelands of Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria.
Eucalyptus viminalis (Ribbon Gum, Manna Gum) A large, fast-growing, highly ornamental tree, suited to parks and large gardens. The abundant narrow strips of dark grey bark that hang down from its white trunk and branches, easily identify it. Gliders and possums score the trunk to expose and feed on the sugary sap within, and koalas feed on its long, narrow leaves. It flowers throughout the year, mainly in summer and autumn, and attracts a variety of birds. It is also tolerant of Phytophthora cinnamomi, and makes a good windbreak and shade tree, suited to moist soils, sandy or clay. Ribbon Gum occurs from the Queensland/New South Wales border to south Australia and Tasmania.
Other eucalypts worth considering include Eucalyptus robusta (Swamp Mahogany), Eucalyptus saligna (Sydney Blue Gum) and Eucalyptus sieberi (Silvertop Ash).
Eucryphia moorei (Pinkwood) A rainforest tree that reaches a height of 8 to 15 metres, and seldom seen in cultivation. It features a lacy crown of dark green pinnate leaves. From mid summer to late autumn it displays large, fragrant, very attractive white flowers that bring honeyeaters and insectivorous birds. It makes an excellent specimen tree in moist, loamy soil and a cool, shady situation.
Pinkwood occurs in sheltered gullies from the Sydney region to the southern highlands, extending to eastern Victoria.
Euroschinus falcata (Ribbonwood) is related to the South American genus Schinus that includes the Pepper Tree. Ribbonwood is a hardy, fast growing, strikingly attractive tree with glossy, compound, mango-scented leaves. It may reach 15 to 20 metres in cultivation, and is therefore more suited to parks and larger gardens. Large clusters of small pink flowers appear throughout summer, followed by pink or dark blue fruits that attract a variety of birds.
Ribbonwood is found in coastal rainforest from far north Queensland to southeastern NSW.
Ficus is a genus of around 1,000 species, of which about 40 occur in Australia. Of the six species indigenous to the Sydney region, Ficus rubiginosa (Port Jackson Fig, Rusty Fig), is probably the best for garden cultivation. It is a large shrub or shapely, wide spreading tree to about 10 m, easily identified by its glossy ovate leaves – smaller than most figs – with their lower surfaces resembling rust coloured velvet. The small globular fruits ripen from yellow to red; attracting butterflies and many species of fruit- and seed-eating birds through summer to late winter. It tolerates most soils in wet or dry conditions, and is sometimes seen in older, larger Sydney gardens as a specimen or windbreak. Grown in a large shallow container, Port Jackson Fig also makes an excellent, long-lived bonsai.
Its natural distribution is from north Queensland to the south coast of New South Wales; as a tree in littoral and depauperate rainforest, or a wind-pruned shrub in exposed coastal conditions.
Glochidion ferdinandi (Cheese Tree) A shapely, fast growing tree from 4 to 12 metres, with shiny, lanceolate leaves. Inconspicuous flowers are followed by round, flattened, segmented fruits resembling miniature wax-covered cheeses, that remain for much of the year and attract many birds. Although tolerant of sun, it prefers some shade and a moist, fertile soil. Leaves are subject to caterpillar damage when stressed; most likely through drought or excess sunlight.
Cheese Tree occurs along riverbanks and rainforest margins, in Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland, and down to the south coast of New South Wales.
Hakea salicifolia (Willow-leaf Hakea) is a very hardy, fast growing, tall shrub or small bushy tree to about 6 m, with light green lanceolate leaves. During spring it produces white flowers that attract honeyeaters and insectivorous birds. It is fire retardant, tolerant of Phytophthora cinnamomi and almost any soil, wet or dry, and makes an excellent high screen.
Willow-leaf Hakea is found in sheltered woodland, often alongside waterways, from Queensland to Shoalhaven, New South Wales.
Hymenosporum flavum (Native Frangipani) A small, slender, fast growing tree with glossy dark green lanceolate leaves, that reaches 8 to 10 metres. From mid spring to early summer the canopy is covered in clusters of highly fragrant cream flowers turning yellow as they age, and attract honeyeaters and insectivorous birds, and butterflies. Although tolerant of poor dry soil and full sun, it prefers a moist, fertile soil with some shade. It is also fire retardant and tolerant of Phytophthora cinnamomi.
Native Frangipani is found in rainforest and sheltered gullies, from New Guinea and far north Queensland, down the coast to the Sydney region.
Livistona australis (Cabbage Tree Palm) Described In the International Book of Trees, as “the most graceful of the fan-leaved palms”, it is a slender tree with a smooth straight trunk; not as fast growing as the Sydney region’s other indigenous palm, the Bangalow, yet it eventually reaches up to 20 to 25 metres. Shiny green palmate leaves about 3 metres long, emerge from a dense canopy, from which conspicuous panicles of small cream flowers appear between August and October. Hard, black fruits follow, attracting seedeaters such as Topknot and White-headed Pigeon, and many other birds.
The wide-spreading, space-occupying canopy and prickly leaf stalks of immature plants, deter group planting around a swimming pool. To avoid this problem, select mature or semi-mature specimens, or substitute Archontophoenix cunninghamii (Bangalow Palm).
Cabbage Tree Palm is hardy and easily transplanted (best in summer), and tolerant of most soils with some moisture, including wet soils with impeded drainage. It is a heavy feeder and responds well to water, mulch and organic fertiliser. It is also highly resistant to fire, though not fire retardant.
An uneven number of plants, unequally spaced and at varying stages of development, creates a natural ambience, especially when combined with selected rainforest understorey plants to heighten this effect.
Cabbage Tree Palm is found in coastal rainforest and wet sclerophyll forest between north Queensland and eastern Victoria, often in large colonies at the edges of waterways and swamps.
Melaleuca is an almost entirely Australian genus of over 200 species of trees and shrubs, closely related to Callistemon. At least sixteen species are indigenous to the Sydney region, often occurring in very wet conditions along the edges of creeks and lagoons. The following three tree species have white papery bark, attract honeyeaters and insectivorous birds, make excellent windbreaks and are tolerant of drought.
Melaleuca linariifolia (Snow in Summer) A fast growing, bushy tree with dull green lanceolate leaves, that reaches about 8 to 10 m. From mid-spring till late summer it produces a profusion of white, scented ‘bottlebrush’ flower spikes. Often found on heavy wet soils, it tolerates sandy and saline soils, atmospheric pollution and Phytophthora cinnamomi. It also makes an effective specimen, screen or street tree. According to the Koala Preservation Society of NSW, it is one of the few non-eucalypts with foliage that koalas sometimes feed on.
Snow-in-Summer is found in damp, sunny situations in woodland and forest, from central coastal Queensland to the south coast of New South Wales.
Melaleuca quinquenervia (Broad-leaf Paperbark) A very hardy, fast growing, small to large tree with broad lanceolate leaves. Fragrant creamy white, or occasionally red, ‘bottlebrush’ flower spikes appear from early summer to late winter, attracting honeyeaters and insectivorous birds. An attractive specimen tree, and often seen as street tree where overhead wires are not present.
Broad-leaf Paperbark is a common woodland or forest tree throughout coastal Queensland as far south as metropolitan Sydney.
Melaleuca styphelioides (Prickly Paperbark) A fast growing, very attractive tall shrub or small tree (rarely a tall tree) with tiny, shiny, pointed leaves. Between spring and early summer, masses of small white flower spikes cover the canopy. Another excellent specimen or street tree, tolerant of drought, Phytophthora cinnamomi and almost any soil.
Prickly Paperbark is found in dry to wet sclerophyll forest, from north Queensland to the Blue Mountains and south to Nowra, New South Wales.
Melia azedarach var. australasica (White Cedar) A shapely, very fast growing, fire retardant tree to about 12 metres, with a spreading canopy that superficially resembles Brazil’s Jacaranda mimosifolia. Its trunk is darker and smoother however, and its lacy bipinnate leaves larger and less inclined to block downpipes and gutters when they fall.
Its large panicles of small mauve, highly fragrant flowers remain on the tree for about two months from mid spring to early summer – much longer than Jacaranda – and they attract insectivorous birds. Flowers are followed by long-lasting golden brown fruits, food for parrots and other seed eating birds, although allegedly toxic to humans and dogs.
White Cedar is one of a small minority of deciduous trees indigenous to the Sydney region, and one of only two to shed its leaves in winter. (The other is Toona ciliata Red Cedar, suited only to parks and large gardens.) Suitably situated north or west of the house, it screens the afternoon sun during summer and admits it in winter. It also makes a good specimen, windbreak or street tree.
It is easily grown and tolerant of drought, Phytophthora cinnamomi and poor dry soils, although it grows even faster on fertile soils.
During late autumn before leaf fall, processional caterpillars sometimes defoliate the tree, although they cause no permanent damage. Prevent these little creatures from reaching the canopy, by wrapping double-sided adhesive tape around the trunk and leaving unmulched soil around its base.
White Cedar occurs along rainforest margins and river banks, in Western Australia and northern Queensland, and down the east coast to Shoalhaven, New South Wales.
Melicope micrococca (Doughwood, White Euodia) A hardy, fast growing rainforest tree to about 12 m. in cultivation. Conspicuous clusters of small white flowers in summer attract honeyeaters, insectivorous birds and butterflies. A useful street tree or background tree, for almost any well drained soil.
Doughwood is found in rainforest and sheltered gullies, from Queensland to the Illawarra district of New South Wales.
Neolitsea dealbata (White Bolly Gum) is a small bushy tree to 10 metres, with large pointed leaves, white on their undersurfaces. In spring time it is easily recognised by its limply hanging new leaves. Clusters of fragrant yellow flowers in autumn are followed by purple fruits that attract many birds.
White Bolly Gum is a hardy tree, given a sheltered position and supplementary watering while it becomes established. It occurs in rainforest between north Queensland and the south coast of New South Wales.
Notelaea longifolia (Large Mock Olive) A small, very hardy tree to 8 metres, with weeping branches and stiff lanceolate leaves. Racemes of small yellow flowers in autumn and winter are followed by blue-black fleshy drupes that bring many biirds. Large Mock Olive tolerates long dry spells, and makes an excellent screen. It is found in coastal rainforest and sheltered eucalypt forest, from northern Queensland to southern New South Wales.
Omalanthus is a genus of 35 species, of which three occur in Australia. Omalanthus populifolius (Bleeding Heart) is a very fast growing large shrub or small speading tree to about 5 metres. It is characterised by large heart shaped leaves (much smaller on mature specimens), that turn bright red as they age. Long racemes of small green flowers in spring and summer are followed by blue-green fruits that attract insectivorous and fructivorous birds.
A useful gap filler or attractive specimen, Bleeding Heart is easily grown with some soil moisture in a sheltered situation. It occurs in and around rainforest between north Queensland and eastern Victoria.
Pararchidendron pruinosum (Snow Wood) An elegant small tree to 8 metres, with shiny, light green bipinnate leaves; an undervalued plant that lightens up a shady garden. Large, fluffy, fragrant, cream-turning-yellow-green flowers from spring to early summer, attract many butterfies, including the spectacular Tailed Emperor. The twisted seed pods that follow are visited by many birds.
Snow Wood grows quickly in sun or shade, with protection from frost and wind. It is found in rainforest between north Queensland and the Sydney region.
Pittosporum undulatum (Sweet Pittosporum) A shapely tree of 8 to 10 metres, with a dense canopy of shiny lanceolate leaves with wavy margins. White, highly fragrant flowers appear in early spring, followed by conspicuous orange-yellow fruits with sticky seeds.
It is among the few native trees to benefit from nutrients that leach from gardens close to bushland, and is regarded as a weed in some areas. Nonetheless, it has many virtues: It is fast growing, fire retardant, tolerant of atmospheric pollution and almost any soil. It also attracts honey-eaters and insectivorous and fructivorous birds, controls erosion, makes an excellent screen, windbreak or street tree, and survives dry shade where other species might fail.
Sweet Pittosporum occurs in shady gullies and rainforest, from south Queensland, down the coast and tablelands of New South Wales to Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia.
Podocarpus elatus (Plum Pine) Podocarpus is a genus within the Podocarpaceae family and one of the few conifers to occur naturallly in Australia. With its oblong olive-like leaves and small fleshy fruits giving it the appearance of a broadleaf tree, Podocarpus elatus resembles few other conifers. (South Africa’s Podocarpus falcatus is one exception.)
Although developing into a large stately tree in northern rainforests, in the Sydney region Plum Pine seldom exceeds 5 to 8 metres, and growth is fairly slow.
It prefers a humus-rich soil and some shade, although it tolerates almost any soil with moisture. It also makes a very attractive specimen or street tree that brings a spectrum of fruit-eating birds. It may be grown in a large container for several years before planting in the garden.
Podocarpus elatus occurs in coastal raiinforest between north Queensland and the Illawarra district of New South Wales.
Polyosma cunninghamii (Featherwood) A small tree with distinctive shiny, dark green leaves with rough-toothed margins and white, highly fragrant tubular flowers that appear from mid autumn to late spring. The flowers and large black fruits that follow, bring an assortment of native birds.
Featherwood is easily grown in most soils in sun or shade, and makes an excellent specimen or screening tree. It occurs in rainforest from southern Queensland to the Sydney region.
Polyscias elegans (Celerywood) is a slender, shapely, exceptionally fast growing tree to 12 metres, with a high, umbrella-like canopy of large shiny bipinnate leaves. Panicles of small purple flowers in summer and autumn are followed by small purple fruits that attract Fig birds and other native seed eaters. This tree is easily grown in sun or shade, preferring a moist soil rich in humus, although it tolerates most free-draining soils. It makes an interesting specimen in the ‘rainforest’ garden.
Celerywood is found in rainforest, from far north Queensland to the Illawarra district of New South Wales.
Polyscias murrayi (Pencil Cedar) Similar in most other respects to Polyscias elegans, Pencil Cedar has much larger, pinnate leaves, small yellow-green flowers and pale blue fruits.
It occurs in, and on the margins of rainforest, from Queensland’s Atherton tableland to eastern Victoria.
Quintinia sieberi (Possumwood) A large shrub or small tree to 10 metres with corky bark and thick ovate leaves; it produces conspicuous panicles of fragrant white flowers in spring and early summer. Given some soil moisture and good drainage, it grows in almost any soil.
Possumwood often starts as an epiphyte on tree ferns in high altitude gullies and rainforest in southern Queensland and New South Wales.
Rhodamnia rubescens (Brush Turpentine) A very hardy, bushy, slightly weeping tree to about 10 metres, with grey-green, elliptical, strongly-veined leaves. Each spring it produces fragrant white flowers followed by clusters of small red fruits that feed many birds. An excellent screening tree.
Brush Turpentine occurs in rainforest and the ecotone between rainforest and eucalypt forest, from south-east Queensland to the south coast of New South Wales.
Schizomeria ovata (Snowberry, White Cherry) A very attractive, bushy, spreading tree from 10 to12 metres, with glossy ovate, toothed leaves; new growth is in shades of pink, red and lustrous green. Large terminal clusters of tiny white flowers in spring are followed by white, juicy, edible drupes relished by rainforest doves and other fructivorous birds. An excellent screening tree that prefers humus enriched soils, although tolerant of most soils, in sun or shade, with protection from wind for the first year or so while it becomes established.
White Cherry occurs widely in rainforest and sheltered gullies from north-eastern Queensland to south-eastern New South Wales.
Scolopia braunii (Flintwood) A shapely, compact tree with shiny ovate to lanceolate leaves, in light green and frequent flushes of red. It seldom exceeds 8 to 10 metres in cultivation. Clusters of small, fragrant, creamy-white flowers in spring are followed by masses of yellow globular berries that deepen to red.
It is easily grown in most soils and situations.
Flintwood occurs in rainforest and rainforest margins, from north Queensland to Jervis Bay, New South Wales.
Sloanea australis (Maidens Blush) A small to medium tree that occasionally reaches 12 to 15 metres in cultivation, easily recognised by its large, wavy, toothed leaves and pale pink new growth. Large white nodding flowers – solitary or in racemes – emerge in spring These are followed by large orange capsules, food for a variety of seed-eating birds. It thrives in most soils where water is readily available and is intolerant of dry conditions. It makes an excellent specimen tree in partial sun or shade.
Maidens Blush is found in rainforest gullies, often alongside creeks, between north Queensland and Batemans Bay, New South Wales.
Stenocarpus salignus (Red Silky Oak) A slow growing, bushy tree to 6 metres in cultivation, with glossy, dark green, lanceolate or lobed foliage. Clusters of showy, scented, greenish white, Grevillea-like flowers in spring that feed honey-eaters, are followed by green woody follicles, that feed seed-eating birds. It is easily cultivated in sun or shade, in most soils, preferring heavy soils with moisture, though tolerating dry periods.
Red Silky Oak occurs in rainforest, from Rockhampton, Queensland to Milton in south-eastern New South Wales.
Stenocarpus sinuatus (Firewheel Tree) A slender, highly ornamental tree that may reach 15 metres in cultivation. Throughout summer, spectacular glowing orange and red flowers resembling wheels of fire, appear amongst the shiny, dark green, entire or deeply lobed foliage. Almost any soil and dry periods are accepted, although a moist, fertile soil rich in humus promotes much faster growth. Some shade and protection from wind are recommended during establishment.
Firewheel Tree is found in rainforest from the Atherton tableland, Queensland to Coffs Harbour, New South Wales. Although not indigenous to the Sydney region, I have included it because it is an exceptionally beautiful tree, that poses no risk to the local ecology. I vividly recall an occasion several years ago, watching a flock of parrots just above my head, as they feasted on the seed pods, while tiny honeyeaters fluttered around above them drinking nectar from the flowers.
Symplocos thwaitesii (Buff Hazelwood) A small tree, 4 to 8 metres tall, with leathery dark green leaves towards the ends of branchlets. Axillary racemes of showy white flowers with prominent stamens appear during spring, followed by black fruits in summer. An excellent screen tree in shade and fertile soil where water is regularly available.
Buff Hazelwood occurs in rainforest between central coastal Queensland and eastern Victoria.
Syncarpia glomulifera (Turpentine) A tall, fast-growing tree, with tough, elliptic, grey-green leaves, suited only to parks and larger gardens. Insectivorous birds feed within its deep, fibrous bark. In late spring and summer, fluffy creamy-white flowers appear, followed by clusters of conjoined woody capsules. Moist, fertile soils are preferred, though dry sandy soils are accepted. Fire retardant, like most rainforest trees, it also makes an excellent windbreak, and is easily grown in sun or shade.
Turpentine occurs mainly in eucalypt forest on rainforest margins, from Queensland to Ulladulla, New South Wales
Synoum glandulosum (Scentless Rosewood) A large, often slow-growing shrub or small tree to around 8 metres, although specimens up to 25 metres have been reported. In cultivation it is usually less than 5 metres, and easily identified by its handsome, glossy, mid-green pinnate leaves and opposite leaflets. Axillary clusters of small, white to deep pink, sweet-scented flowers appear in autumn and winter. A prolific display of bright red fruits follows, bringing many birds – another benefit of this highly desirable, much underrated species.
Scentless Rosewood is easily grown in filtered sun or shade, given a moist, free-draining soil. It tolerates temporary inundation.
It occurs in rainforest, wet sclerophyll forest and sheltered gullies, along the east coast between north Queensland and Bega in southern New South Wales.
Syzygium (Lilly Pilly) is a genus of over 500 species of trees and large shrubs. Around fifty are indigenous to Australia, most occurring in Queensland rainforests. Several species of ornamental value are indigenous to the greater Sydney region, although forms originating in northern Queensland generally perform poorly in Sydney.
Many species are subject to psyllid attack, from which they generally emerge unscathed, given a moist, fertile, well-composted soil.
The name Lilly Pilly originally referred only to Acmena smithii. Today, it also includes the closely related genera Syzygium and Waterhousea. Confusingly, all three genera were previously assigned to the one genus, Eugenia.
Syzygium australe (Brush Cherry) is a small tree that reaches around 5 to 7 metres in cultivation. It has flaky bark and a dense canopy of glossy lanceolate leaves, and it branches from ground level. Bronze, pink or red new growth in spring is accompanied by masses of fluffy white flowers, followed by tasty, red or deep pink berries – magnets for birds: honeyeaters, insect-eaters, fruit- and seed-eaters, depending on the season.
Brush Cherry tolerates coastal winds and temporary inundation, and is resistant to Phytophthora cinnamomi.
It occurs in or near rainforest, between north Queensland and the south coast of New South Wales.
[* Most of the dwarf Lilly Pillys currently marketed, are forms of Syzygium australe. Due to species confusion within the nursery industry however, this species and its several forms are often marketed as (forms of) Syzygium paniculatum. Moreover, the ‘dwarf’ appellation should be regarded with caution because few apparently dwarf forms have received independent long-term investigation of this feature. S. australe ‘Tiny Trev’ (that also features smaller leaves than other forms of Brush Cherry), is a notable exception. S. australe ‘Blaze’ is among the best for a low hedge, although highly prone to attack by psyllids. Other forms that have been marketed for five years or more, include ‘Aussie Boomer’ that has no apical growth and is used for low hedges; ‘Aussie Compact’ (probably the same as ‘Elite’ and ‘Select’) that reaches around 4 metres; ‘Aussie Southern’, a slender form that reaches around 3 metres; and ‘Bush Christmas’ popular with topiary enthusiasts.]
Syzygium francisii (Rose Satinash) A medium to very large rainforest tree with light brown flaky bark, that sometimes reaches 40 metres in its natural habitat. Dark green glossy leaves are often infested with black scale, though this is barely noticeable and the tree hardly seems to suffer. Bright pink or red new growth and masses of small white flowers in spring and early summer, are followed by blue-purple berries, attracting many birds. It is easily grown, provided plenty of water is readily available.
Rose Satinash occurs in rainforest, from central coastal Queensland to Gosford on the central coast of New South Wales.
Syzygium francisii ‘Aussie Champ’, said to reach only 5 to 6 metres, is an excellent substitute for gardens that would otherwise be too small to include this beautiful species.
[S. francisii ‘Little Gem’, a hardy hedge form that tolerates sun and dry periods, reaches around 1 to 2 metres.]
Syzygium oleosum, Blue Lilly Pilly, bears a superficial resemblance to Brush Cherry, and has a similar distribution; its dense aromatic foliage also starts close to the ground. Flowers are fluffy and white, though with a longer flowering period, between late spring and late winter. Fruit is a juicy, blue to purple berry, relished by many birds and usually flavoursome to humans.
It is a fast growing shade and screening tree, easily grown where water is available.
Blue Lilly Pilly occurs in rainforest, between north Queensland and the Wollongong district of New South Wales.
[S. oleosum ‘Amber Curls’ features deep violet fruits and grows to about 1.5 metres.]
Syzygium paniculatum (Magenta Lilly Pilly) A large shrub or small tree to around 7 to 12 metres, with flaky bark and smaller leaves than Syzygium australe. White flowers appear throughout summer, followed by bunches of crisp, tasty, bright magenta berries. In some localities, it is prone to psyllids and sooty mould. It tolerates full sun and most free-draining soils where moisture is available.
It occurs in rainforest, on sandy soils, in two widely separated locations, both in New South Wales: Bulahdelah, on the mid north coast and Jervis Bay on the south coast.
[Dwarf forms of Syzygium paniculatum include ‘Beachball’, ‘Lillyput’ and ‘Little Lil’. Supposedly less prone to psyllids, and without apical growth, they seem to retain their rounded habit and to remain below 2 metres.]
Toona ciliata (Red Cedar) A very fast-growing tree with dark green pinnate leaves, that may reach 30 metres, best suited to parks and large gardens. Like its close relative, Melia azedarach (White Cedar), Red Cedar is deciduous and sheds its leaves in winter. Clusters of small white or pink scented flowers appear during springtime.
It is well worth growing where space is available, not only for its fast growth and handsome appearance, but because extensive logging has left a massive deficit in the Australian landscape.
Tip moth attacks on plantation grown Red Cedar saplings are seemingly inevitable, rendering plantations unfeasible. The moth seldom attacks single trees however, nor trees grown in mixed lots with other native trees.
Red Cedar needs a moist soil, prefers some initial shade and tolerates sun.
It occurs in rainforest and alluvial soils, alongside waterways: from Indonesia down through Cape York peninsula to southern New South Wales.
Tristaniopsis laurina (Water Gum) A small tree, from 5 to 15 metres – occasionally much larger – with smooth bark in shades of white, grey and tan. It has glossy green lanceolate leaves, with flushes of red new growth in spring, followed by terminal clusters of yellow flowers in summer. Despite its watery connotations, it tolerates extended dry periods. An excellent screen tree, it also tolerates full sun, frequent inundation, atmospheric pollution and soil compaction.
Water Gum is found in rainforest and sclerophyll forest, often alongside creeks, from Gympie, Queensland to Gippsland, Victoria.
Waterhousea floribunda (Weeping Lilly Pilly) A graceful, fast-growing species of varying forms, ranging from small to large trees. All forms bear long, wavy, dark green leaves on weeping branches; large panicles of creamy-white flowers appear in late winter and spring. The hard fruits that follow are green, tinged pink.
An excellent shade and screen tree, it needs a moist, well-drained soil, prefers some shade and tolerates full sun.
Weeping Lilly Pilly is a common tree of riverine rainforest. It often grows alongside waterhways, and occurs from Mackay, Queensland to the Hunter Valley, New South Wales,
Xylomelum pyriforme (Woody Pear) A tall shrub or small tree to around 4 metres, with large, leathery, lanceolate leaves. Creamy white flower spikes in spring are followed by large, woody fruits that resemble pears, hence its common name.
Woody Pear needs excellent drainage and full sun. As a protected species however, neither seed nor cuttings are presently available. A pity, in my view, because conservation through cultivation, could provide improved long-term protection for this attractive, unusual species.
Woody Pear occurs on sandstone soils, in dry sclerophyll forest or coastal heath, from southern Queensland to the Southern Highlands of New South Wales.