Thursday, January 27, 2011

Toothache Tree

Melicope micrococca
Here is another of those local dry rainforest tree species which would be suitable for use in the garden. It has a dense canopy of these shiny, dark green trifoliate leaves, and like so many of our dry rainforest trees, produces masses of small white insect-attracting flowers.
Old rainforest-grown specimens might have a trunk diameter of 60cm, but 30cm is a more usual size. The remnant of a large old tree can be seen on the road reserve in Hiwinds Road at Mt Kynoch. It is probably in indicator that the type of dry rainforest known as semi-evergreen vine thicket was once dense in that area, before it was cleared for farms in the 19th century. It has fallen over, but is getting a second lease of life, as new stems shoot from the old tree-stump. It is good to see the tree being valued by the householders adjacent to that part of the road.
I photographed these flowers in Peacehaven Botanic park (Highfields) last week. The little four-year-old tree was a mass of them, inside the canopy. They were covered with beetles, enjoying the feast. We can expect to see the panicles of little grey seed capsules any time between February and June. They are eaten by a variety of birds.
This tree's tough but soft white timber gives it the common name “white doughwood”, but I prefer the name our early settlers learned from aborigines, who recognised its medicinal value. I wouldn’t recommend it for home use, though. An aboriginal describing the method of use, said that a leaf should be folded up and placed on the problem tooth. The sufferer should bite on it, and would then “drop dead 20 minutes”, before waking up cured. The possibility that the user might not wake up at all sounds like a too-possible alternative outcome!
Like most of our “scrub” trees, this one is drought resistant, and tolerates some frost.

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