If you’re quick, you’ll be able to catch this tree while it’s still in flower at peacehaven Botanic Park, Highfields. The flowers have a very unusual musty sweet smell.
This is an unusually large specimen, retained from what must once have been a significant area of semi-evergreen vine thicket (dry rainforest) on the Peacehaven site. Nowadays, we usually see bitterbarks as slender little trees or shrubs, able to be picked out from a distance by their attractive white trunks. If damaged, they have a tendency to sucker and produce thickets (or hedges).
this is a fast-growing, drought hardy species, with garden potential, but rarely used.
This is one of those rainforest plants - some of them only found in dry rainforest ecosystems like those which once covered much of our local land - which may suddenly find itself highly valued in the future because of its potential to provide the pharmaceutical industry with a new drug.
Its white latex has been used to lower blood pressure, and some Alstonia species are also showing potential as a source of cancer cures.
Our early settlers would add the bark as a “bitter” to their medicinal concoctions and drinks, but I don’t recommend it! (There’s too fine a line between medicines and poisons.)
However, you might like to experiment with the bark for dye-making. A related species is used for this purpose in India. (Expect yellow.)