Sunday, August 28, 2011

Gumbi Gumbi

Pittosporum angustifolium
(Pittosporum phillyraeoides)
Spring has certainly sprung this week at Irongate Environmental Park.

The gumbi gumbi are flowering with enthusiasm. They couldn’t even wait for last season’s fruit to be finished! (Double click to see detail.)

Insects of all kinds love their sweet nectar. This butterfly is a “striated pearl white” (Elodina parthia), one of the many attracted to the park by its plentiful supply of host plants, the native capers Capparis mitchellii.

These flowers will be followed, in summer and autumn, by a showy display of orange fruits.

They split to reveal seeds which are covered with sticky red arils, and are much-loved by seed-eating birds. King parrots feasting on them is one of our outstandingly beautiful local sights. The seeds are very bitter, and are said to ruin the flavour of the flesh of emus which eat them.

Gumbi gumbi (also spelled Gumby gumby) is one of our prettiest local native plants. This specimen which I photographed in March, in a roadside park at Jondaryan, shows its neat natural shape.

It responds well to pruning, as the results of this rough job - done by cattle - demonstrate. With the secateurs, you can create a dense screening shrub whose foliage weeps to ground level, or a shady little tree. Cattle bush is one of its many common names. (Others are cumbi cumbi, meemei, berrigan, native apricot, and butterbush.)

This is a drought hardy and frost resistant plant. It grows well on all our basalt soils, but particularly likes our heavy blacksoil. Deep-rooted plants, they flourish despite competition from other trees, and are happy to grow under Eucalyptus trees.

Since writing this blog, I have received a steady stream of comments written by people who want to publicise their own opinions on the medicinal value (or lack of value) of this plant. Many also apparently want me to publish a statement that I endorse their views. A few even become abusive because I will not do this.

Please note that this is a personal blogsite, not a public forum.
Its subject is plants of the Toowoomba region, their place in the local ecology, and the use of them in gardens.  I have no more expertise than the next person on the subject of the medicinal uses of plants, therefore do not include this topic.
Comments on the subject will not be published.
Patricia Gardner.


Patricia Gardner said...

Correspondence on the possible medicinal qualities of the plant, or sources of supply, will no longer be published on this blog.
Sorry, but this is not a blog about medicines, alternative or otherwise.
There are other forums more suitable for discussion of this topic.

Anonymous said...

Hi Trish

I have one growing in Kingaroy, about a year old now and 2 m high. It's in red basalt soil. I have seen one with really spectacular covering of the seed capsules growing in the road verge beside the pedestrian crossing opposite the IGA in Nanango. There is nothing on it at the moment. It is a good looking tree and seems quite healthy in spite of the difficult conditions it must experience there.

I got my plant from the now-closed nursery at the western end of Hursley Road Toowoomba. I understand that it can be partially parasitic, attaching its roots to the roots of other plants?

Frank S.

Patricia Gardner said...

Hi Frank
Great little trees, aren't they? They'll thrive in really poor conditions, once they've settled in after planting.
No they are not partially parasitic. I suspect this idea comes from confusion with another plant, the northern sandalwood (Santalum lanceolatum) a plant of similar size. It grows in similar environments, and has something like the same slightly weeping habit. It can easily be distinguished from the Gumby Gumby, as it has blueish green leaves. It is related to mistletoes, and is partially parasitic - usually depending (though not very heavily, once the plant is mature) on the roots of surrounding grasses.

Patricia Gardner said...

I seem to have lost track of a comment someone sent, asking whether this plant would grow around Tenterfield.
Sorry! I must have clicked on something silly while trying to publish it for you.
I'm also sorry that my answer is that I really can't give you a useful reply. I have no experience of growing conditions around Tenterfield, so anything I would say would only be a guess. I would suggest you ask someone in a nursery in your area, with some expertise in native plants.
Best of luck!

Anonymous said...

Hi Trish
I have several Gumbi Gumbi's they have been in the ground about 6 months, some are growing straight up in a single stalk and are around 750mm high and others are turning tree like with branches. I believe they grow up to 6m high. At what height should I cut the main single stalk to make them create branches and become bushier. (We would like them to be a barrier/screen from the neighbours). Their in black soil & hoping to keep them to 3-4 metres high. Also what should be the appropriate spacing between them. Thanks.