Friday, March 8, 2013

Holly-leafed Bird’s Eye

Alectryon subdentatus
Family: SAPINDACEAEAutumn in Australia is marked, not by a conspicuous display of autumn leaf colour, but by fruits on the native trees.
It the case of dry rainforest trees, these can be showy things, as with these birds eye fruits I photographed in Peacehaven Botanic Park yesterday.

“Alectryon” means rooster, and you can see from the fruit, why the tree was given this name.
Most Alectryon species are neat little shade trees. As a botanic garden, Peacehaven is intended to show how suitable our local native plants can be for use in gardens, and this is a good example of a plant suitable for quite small gardens.
Red and black are bird-attracting colours, so you can see how appealing the generous crop of fruit on this tree would be. The red aril can also be eaten by humans, and I have read claims that it tastes quite acceptable. I find it dry, astringent and disgusting, and suspect that wishful thinking rather than experience is behind the claims.
Hard bird’s eye seems to be the Alectryon which fruits at the earliest age. This tree is about seven years old.
Its red new leaves can appear at any time of year, when the tree puts on a spurt of growth after rain. They are usually at their best in spring, though. They make the plant attractive from a very early age.

A walk around Peacehaven is rewarding at the moment, with many of the small trees flowering or fruiting. Notice that the fruits of the holly-leafed bird's eye tend to be double. In the photo below, they are being split open by the aril, which swells as it ripens.

Near this tree in Peacehaven is a specimen of grey bird’s eye, Alectryon connatus (with ashy-grey leaf-backs). Its seed capsules are triple or quadruple. A number of Alectryon species have some triple capsules, but this is the only one to have the quadruple ones. For this reason, it is sometimes called “quad Alectryon”. 


Anonymous said...

found a wildling subdentatus growing under eucalypt at back of our house 5 years ago - now about 1.5 metres high - foliage very attractive especially with new growth - looking forward to its flowering and fruiting when mature

Blackbutt Ray

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Patricia Gardner said...

Hello Ray.
Isn't it a lovely feeling, when native plants like our gardens so much that they move in? If the Peacehaven tree is anything to go by, you could be lucky enough to get fruit on your tree in the next year or two.

Anonymous said...

A. subdendatus was identified by SGAP K & D / Brisbane Daytime / Logan joint outing past Proston (Reinke Scrub conservation park) yesterday. No flower or fruit seen.

Frank S.

Patricia Gardner said...

Hi Frank.
It's a distinctive plant, once you know it. Watch out for the seed. Like all Alectryons, it probably has good fruiting seasons every two or three years.
If you want to grow it from seed, you may need to plant quite a lot, just to get a few seedlings, as it has a strong tendency to be insect-struck.