Thursday, December 3, 2009


Siphonodon australis
The ivorywoods in Franke Scrub, Cawdor, are still flowering at present, even though some of the fruits are already ripe. These pretty trees are also called “wild guavas”. Their beautifully aromatic fruit is edible. The Franke scrub ones are rather small and dry as we've had little rain, but the fruits on well-watered trees can be 5cm diameter. The flesh smells beautiful and tastes good - something between an apricot and an apple in flavour - but it is unpleasantly gritty.
Ivorywoods have the capacity to be canopy trees, with a trunk diameter as much as 45cm, in their natural habitat which is the moist and dry rainforests of northern New South Wales and southern Queensland.
They are rarely seen approaching this size nowadays. They were much cut for their fine, straight-grained timber, which is good for turning, carving, inlays, marquetry, and making engraving blocks. Modern turners and carvers seek it out - but cannot often find it now.
No doubt many of the older trees, which produce good residential hollows for wildlife, were also cleared to make way for “better” trees, as part of the typical strategy in forests which are managed for timber.
Unfortunately, these very long-lived trees are slow-growing, so the large old trees which have vanished may take several centuries to replace.
Once established, ivorywoods are drought tolerant, and hardy to light frosts. They
prefer to spend their early lives in shade, so are good plants to establish in the shelter of shrubs. There, where they are in nobody’s way, they would be hardly noticed for years. By the time they are becoming pretty small trees, with dense canopies of dark -green, shiny leaves, the shorter-lived plants will be getting to the end of their lives.
If we are to leave something of our gardens for future generations, we should all be planting some of these slow-growers.

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