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Syzygium luehmannii (F.Muell.) L.A.S.Johnson 1962
pronounced: siz-ZY-ghee-um loo-MAH-nee-eye
(Myrtaceae — the gum family)
common names: Small-leafed Lilly-Pilly, Riberry
Syzygium comes from the Greek συζυγιος (syzygios), joined, referring to the paired leaves. Luehmannii is for Johann Georg Luehmann (1843–1904), a German botanist who was von Mueller’s right-hand man in Melbourne, and whose contribution to the building up and critical examination of the National Herbarium, Melbourne, was very great.
This is an evergreen tree that grows up to about 8 m tall with a dense, rounded crown of weeping, glossy, dark green foliage. The new leaves are salmon pink in colour, and make a wonderful show. The tree occurs naturally in sub-tropical and tropical rainforests of eastern Australia, from Kempsey in New South Wales to Cooktown.
The leaves are simple and opposite, the blade being glossy, dark green above, and paler below. They are oval to lanceolate, rounded into the base and drawn out to a blunt point at the apex, 2–5 cm long. As new branches are produced at the crown of the tree, they assume a weeping form that is very attractive. They tend to straighten out after a few weeks. The dense nature of the foliage makes it suitable for hedging and topiary. To maintain compact growth, it should be pruned after flowering. This tree also does well in a pot, although the roots compact quite seriously after a few years.
The flowers are a creamy white, and fluffy, with four or five petals, and the fruit is a pinkish red berry, pear-shaped, 9–12 mm in diameter. The fruits are edible, and have a tart cranberry-like flavour with a hint of cloves. They can be used for making jam, and in tarts, meat sauce, and cakes. The whole fruit can be blended for use in ice cream. There are seedless varieties which are easier to process. Since the early 80s it has been popular as a gourmet bush food, and is commercially cultivated on a small-scale basis.
The tree is very attractive to sunbirds when the new leaves are still pink, even when there are no flowers to supply nectar. I assume they are attracted by the colour of the leaves.
This species produces millable logs and the timber is marketed as Cherry Satinash, a useful general purpose structural timber.
Photographs taken at Picnic Bay 2005-2008
Page last updated 21st January 2017