Friday, August 28, 2009

The Most Beautiful Bush Fragrance

Pittosporum undulatum
Sweet Pittosporum is a shrub or small tree native to the dry rainforest and scrubs on our red soils. It is just coming into flower now - a little early, as most things are this year - and the scent carries for many metres.
It’s a popular garden plant. In America they call it "Mock Orange". Fragrant oil extracted from the flowers has been used in perfumes.
When the flowers have finished, they are followed by pretty fruits which look like little oranges, but split in two to reveal bright red, bird-attracting seeds inside.
Although it comes up naturally in Toowoomba gardens, it is, sadly, not grown here as much as it should be.
Part of the reason is that, outside its own territory, it has the potential to become just as much of a weed as privet does here. (Yes, Australian natives CAN be environmental weeds!) I find it depressing, though, that in a country which learns more about its native plants from books and television than from going out into the bush and seeing what’s there, local “experts” parrot what they’ve learned from Sydney and Melbourne sources and advise Toowoomba people against this local native plant because it is “weedy”!
It is nothing of the sort, here in its home territory.
Yes, it does self-seed. This is what native plants SHOULD do.
No, it doesn’t self-seed to an extreme or nuisance extent.
Meanwhile, considering its rainforesty appearance, it is astonishingly tough, surviving in open paddocks where it is fully exposed to all that the climate can toss at it. Stock find it a very edible plant, so tends to survive there only along fence-lines or tucked up against posts, where it has some defence against being munched to the ground. Like most woody fodder species, it will respond to pruning by growing as a dense bushy shrub - a useful garden quality.
Sweet Pittosporum is a perfect plant for a waterwise suburban garden, where it can be left to grow as a little tree, or kept shrub-size for a screen or bird-shelter, or to fit into your plans for a garden picture. Its deep roots are happy to share with others, so it grows well under existing trees.
It is used in some parts of Toowoomba as a street tree, something for which it is very well suited, as it has the toughness requirement but never gets too tall for the power lines. (Heights of rainforest trees are very variable. In dense rainforest, this tree can reach 12 metres, but grown in the open it would be doing well to get to a third of this height.)
This is one of the many dry rainforest shrubs that can be purchased for $2.00 from the Crows Nest Community Nursery.

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