Friday, July 24, 2015

Small leafed Condoo

Planchonella cotinifolia
(Pouteria cotinifolia)



It is a bit hard to find specimens of this plant out in the open, as its preferred habitat is in the local rainforest type known as “dry vine scrub” or “semi-evergreen vine thicket”.
This one, however, has been left when scrub was cleared for grazing. It could be as much as two hundred years old, but a long period in the open has given it plenty of time to fill in its canopy to its pretty, natural shape.

Cattle love the leaves, (as is usually the case with dry vine scrub species). They have eaten all of this plant they can reach, revealing its trunk.
Cattle-pruning tells us how well a tree would respond to treatment with the secateurs, and you can see that this is a flexible plant which could have a number of garden uses.
As a naturally small tree, it would be very suitable for a suburban garden or as a street tree, never likely to outgrow a well-chosen site. Grown among other trees or shrubs, it forms the trunk like that in the photo, though often single. Its canopy shapes itself to share the space with whatever else is growing close.
The regrowth at the base of the tree in the photo tells us that it would grow a leafy canopy to ground level if left by itself to grow in an open position. It could be a useful tall screening plant.
If a tree shape is wanted in an exposed open site, it would be a simple matter to trim off the lower branches.
Another cattle-pruned specimen seen (sorry, I didn’t photograph it) must have been exposed to cattle when much younger. All-over pruning has resulted in a dense-foliaged waist-high shrub, demonstrating the potential of small-leafed condoo as a hedging plant.

Like many other members of the Sapotaceae family, condoos have milky sap and edible fruit. (Black sapote, for example, is popular in tropical and sub-tropical Australia, where it is often grown by lovers of unusual fruits)
Small-leafed condoo’s fruit is small, but delicious.

Well-sucked seeds like this one can be planted to make new trees.

This was once a common plant on the red soil around Toowoomba. Many are now being cleared as real estate development radiates from the Highfields area, though occasionally the developers leave a pretty specimen as they clear. Replanting the same species in the resulting new gardens would be a positive step for our local environment.
Although not recorded as a butterfly host plant, it may well support blue triangle butterflies, as do some closely related condoo species. If you have one, take note of the caterpillars that use it. You could well add something new to add to Australia's still rather sketchy knowledge of its own wildlife.

No comments: