Saturday, April 19, 2008

White Beetroot Tree

Elattostachys xylocarpa
One of our very best local native plants for the garden, this little tree is a fast-growing, if mulched and given water in its first year.

Its showy red new leaves are the reason for the "beetroot" in its common name.

It has all the typical virtues of our local dry rainforest / vine scrub trees, which are:
∙ They are typically small trees which won’t outgrow a suburban garden.
∙ They are very amenable to pruning. Done early you can produce a multiple-trunked shrub needing no further attention. Done regularly, and you have an attractive hedge of any height from waist high to above your head.
∙ Their roots go deep, which means they are good at sharing with other close plants, and won’t heave up your concrete paths.
∙ They like to start life in the shade, which means that they can be squeezed in between shorter-lived shrubs - then they go on to be good shade trees you can sit under.
∙ They are very drought hardy. Look after them for six weeks and they’ll never need watering again (but they will respond to watering by growing faster).
∙ The white flowers are inconspicuous, but have a lovely perfume, and attract a lot of insects in spring when the birds need them to feed their babies. (Even honeyeaters need a lot of insects for this.)
∙ The main annual attraction happens now, with the seedpods. (Why DO people think we should plant deciduous trees to teach our children about autumn ? Wouldn't it be better for little Australians to learn about our own autumn, rather than the British or European autumn of our ancestors?)

White beetroot’s woody autumn seedpods, (photographed yesterday) are truly beautiful. The colour does fade with time, but they still look good in a dried arrangement for years to come

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