Focus on Flora
  • Last updated:
  • 27 Jan 2023

This particular genus of plant, lumped into the group of plants known as Lilly pilly’s, are widespread in our native rainforests and popular with horticulturalists and gardeners alike.

A few years ago some botanists elsewhere in Australia and Internationally merged all of our local Lilly pilly genera. Acmena’s and Waterhousea also became Syzygium, which unfortunately many jumped to adopt. However our local authority the Queensland Herbarium still places all three genera separately. Which is fine by me as they are very different in fruit and flower and I’m an old fashioned kind of guy who doesn’t like change (at least not from the ways I’m already stuck in!).

So that leaves us with a much smaller and easier to tackle list of six Syzygium species on the Sunshine Coast: Syzygium australe – Scrub cherry; Syzygium corynanthum – Sour cherry; Syzygium crebrinerve – Purple cherry; Syzygium francisii – Francis’s water gum; Syzygium hodgkinsoniae – Red lilly pilly and Syzygium luehmannii – Riberry.

All are trees, and in forest conditions generally large trees 20-30 metres in height apart from Syzygium hodgkinsoniae, which is a small to medium tree up to approximately 10 metres. That may seem a surprise to you that your Syzygium australe hedge could be a huge forest tree, but many cultivars have been selected from dwarf plants that are naturally shorter. This genus also responds well to pruning so can make a great dense hedge.

Flowers are all white and a mass of stamens, like a small paint brush, except for Syzygium hodgkinsoniae, which what it lacks in height makes up for with flowers and fruit that are up to 400% bigger than the other Syzygium in our area.

Fruit dispersal is interesting in this genus – birds disperse the seed through eating and passing of the glossy pink, purple or red fruits, but there is a backup plan. The fruit are very buoyant and can float along creeks and rivers, spreading downstream – in life it’s always good to have a backup plan!

Article and Images by Spencer Shaw