Friday, March 25, 2011

Yellow Ash

Emmenosperma alphitonioides
The best photo I can manage, of this uncommon rainforest tree, is the of the plant I took away from the Toowoomba Regional Council’s annual free tree day, in exchange for the voucher which came with my rates notice.
You can see that it gets its common name from the yellowish look of these healthy, shiny leaves.
In our district, we see it as an uncommon tree in rainforests - difficult to photograph. I have never seen it in a garden, though I believe it is grown in some botanic gardens, where it has been established that it is fast-growing, and becomes a medium-sized tree, with a very dense, shady canopy.
From my little tree, I can expect a striking display of creamy-white flowers, followed by a generously sprinkle of long-lasting little orange-yellow fruits. The seed-coats eventually split and fall away, leaving the bright red seeds on the tree - as also happens with its much more common relative, the soap ash Alphitonia excelsa. Also like that tree, the stems become beautifully lichen-covered from an early age.
The seeds are a popular food source for fruit-eating birds.
I have only seen full-grown specimens in the rainforest at Ravensbourne, but am told that if grown in the open, this is an ornamental feature tree, neatly pyramid-shaped, and suitable for use in formal gardens because of its predictable shape.
If grown from cuttings, it becomes a multi-trunked screening shrub, showing off its flowers and fruits at face-level
Large specimens of the trees are rare. They have high quality timber - heavy, and bone coloured (which is why it is also called “bonewood”), so were ruthlessly cut out in the early days of the timber industry.
The seeds have a reputation for being difficult to germinate, so I am impressed at the success that excellent nurseryman Steve Plant has had, with these trees which came from the Crows Nest Community Nursery.
Apparently the seeds grow best if they have dried on the tree and split naturally - a hint for those who wish to try germinating seed themselves.
At present, these plants are available at the Peacehaven Nursery. If you’re quick you may be able to get one.

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