Thursday, March 20, 2008

Red Olive-Plum

Elaeodendron australe var. integrifolium (Cassine australis var. angustifolia)
One of the showiest local plants, the red olive-plums are making a great display with their orange fruits in the Charles and Motee Rogers Bushland Reserve at Highfields, this month. Like many of our local dry rainforest plants they are very suitable for suburban gardens. They are adaptable plants with dense, dark-green canopies and can be grown as small, single-trunked shade trees, or pruned as multi-trunked screening shrubs. They are plants of relatively low flammability, which makes them much more suitable for the suburbs than the dangerous rows of cypresses that we see springing up all over the area.
Perhaps the most “typical” Highfields plant, olive-plums would be very appropriate signature trees for the area. Our locals are the narrow-leafed inland variety. Closer to the coast the olive-plums have broader leaves and fruits which are red.
They are fast-growing, drought-hardy plants, whose deep roots are not jealous of other plants growing close by - a useful quality in a garden specimen. The berries (on the female plants only) can make a much-appreciated bright spot in a garden at this time of the year, when many flowering plants have finished.
Seedlings of the tough local variety can be bought from the Crows Nest Community Nursery. They are best planted in the ground while still very small, as they like to get their drought-hardy roots deep into the soil at a very early age and will grow faster if the roots don’t get “checked” by being confined. Seedlings produce the best shaped trees. Gardeners may also want to grow a few shrubs from cuttings from known female trees, to be sure of getting berries. (Some nearby males are, of course, needed for pollination.)

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