Thursday, January 22, 2009

Leopard Ash

Flindersia collina
The leopard ash trees in Charmaine Court at Highfields were putting out this lovely display of seed capsules last week. They are the smallest of the "woody starfish" capsules, typical of the various Flindersia species, and as you can see, they are more delicate-looking than the capsules from this tree’s well-known cousin the crow’s ash, Flindersia australis. Unlike the latter, they will fall apart into their five separate valves when they dry out.

Leopard ash trees have a reputation for being slow growing, which is not altogether justified. My experience (with un-watered trees on red soil) is that they were indeed very slow for their first four years, after which they have taken off. I suppose they needed to get their roots down to a certain level before they were ready to get on with it.

They were ornamental even when small, with their interesting juvenile leaves (below), and are just the thing to plant among fast-growing, short-lived plants in a new garden (or an old one).

These are small to medium trees, of a size suitable for suburban gardens. Though drought and frost hardy, have shady, “rainforesty” canopies, masses of perfumed white flowers in October, and wonderfully beautiful mottled trunks. (Note that the leaves in the photo taken from a mature, seeding tree in Charmaine Court, above, are of the mature leaf-shape.)

Local native plant enthusiasts who have not yet had a look at the dry rainforest at Charmaine Court might like to take a drive out there with their walking shoes on. The Crows Nest Shire Council is to be congratulated for seeing that the road was designed with a pronounced kink, to go around this lovely bit of scrub with its old trees.

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