Thursday, November 25, 2010

Canary Muskheart

Alangium villosum

When it comes to domatia, this tree is an enthusiast!

Many plant species have these little pits along their mid-veins, but I’ve never before come across leaves so generously endowed with them.
Domatia are an ingenious plant invention. As their name implies, they are little “homes” provided by plants for the accommodation of mites. Most of the mites which make themselves at home there are beneficial ones. They protect the leaf by eating tiny herbivorous insects, fungi and other disease pathogens.
Unfortunately for the landlord, some undesirable tenants are also likely to move in - but the overall balance is usually one where beneficial mites dominate, so the overall effect for the plant, of providing this free mite accommodation, is a protective one - and you can see how healthy this leaf is looking.
Canary muskheart gets its common name from its bright yellow sapwood, and the dense, dark, musk-scented heartwood inside it. It once occurred naturally in Toowoomba, but is now only found in the Boyce Garden, where it grows naturally in the last remnant of our original rainforest.
Old specimens of canary muskheart can reach 20m high and to a diameter of 90cm. Large trees are seldom seen, however. Early timbergetters probably cut it with enthusiasm, as its timber is outstandingly beautiful. Close-grained and firm, it is valued by conoisseurs of fine woods for carving and turnery. It was also popular for walking sticks, so even small trees were cut.
Its little yellow flowers are honeysuckle scented, and the succulent black fruits are the size and shape of olives, but have longitudinal ribbing. They are a favourite fruit of rainforest pigeons.
This is a plant which likes to grow on a variety of soils, including basalt redsoil, and prefers to be sheltered and partially shaded when young. It is slow-growing, and may never reach its full potential size in a suburban garden. However, slow-growing plants should be a part of every garden which is not to vanish without trace in the future.

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