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1 Mar 2023

Flowers and Fruit abound in the early Autumn Garden

As the weather cools the early Autumn garden displays the transition from flowers to fruit.

Candlenut Tree - Aleurites moluccanus 

Now is a good time to see the fruit hanging from the branches of this tropical tree from Australia and south east Asia. The common name tells all - the soft white kernels have such a high oil content that they can be burned like candles. They are an important ingredient in south east Asian cooking. Called Buah Keras in Malaysia, Kemiri in Indonesia and Kukui nut in Hawaii, they are used as a thickener and to enrich curries, but must be well cooked as they are toxic if eaten raw. Family: Euphorbiaceae

Image credit: Forest & Kim Starr

Spineless Yucca - Yucca gigantea

Yucca gigantea is the tallest of the Yucca species, growing to ten metres with a large swollen trunk. It is native to Mexico and Central America and like other species of Yucca has fragrant flowers that open at night. Flowers are pollinated by moths that lay their eggs in the ovules of the flower before transferring pollen to the flower’s stigma. The moth’s larvae hatch and feed on a small proportion of the developing seeds, so that both moth and plant benefit in a mutualistic relationship. Family: Asparagaceae

Wonderful Calabash Tree - Crescentia mirabilis

Crescentia mirabilis is endemic to Cuba where it is only found along the northern coast. Crescentia species are collectively known as Calabash for their large woody fruits that resemble woody gourds. It is easy to miss the trumpet like flowers that appear in spring being highly camouflaged, borne on the trunk and branches. The large woody fruits are obvious at this time of year and while they are not edible, the shells are used by traditionally for containers and musical instruments. Family: Bignoniaceae

Black Bean Tree - Castanospermum australe

Look out for the large seed pods that can be seen hanging from the branches, ready to drop. Flowers are pea shaped, red to orange that are clustered on the older branches. The large seed pods contain three to five chestnut like seeds which are toxic but after careful processing can be made into flour. A widespread tree in coastal rainforest from Bellingen in NSW to Cape York, it is easily recognised in the forest, especially when fruiting. Family: Fabaceae

Elephant's Foot - Cyphostemma juttae

This slow growing succulent tree from Namibia survives in very hot and dry conditions. It has a swollen trunk or caudex that stores water. Patches of light brown paper-thin bark help to reflect away sunlight and the large fleshy leaves can act as a water reservoir in drought but are shed in the dry months of winter to avoid water loss. The large grape-like bunches of bright wine-coloured berries at the end of summer may look delicious but are toxic. Family: Vitaceae

Pink Euodia - Melicope elleryana

This fast-growing rainforest tree from NSW, Queensland, Northern Territory and New Guinea can reach 25 metres in height. In late summer the branches are covered in clusters of small pink flowers that look like pompoms and attract birds looking for nectar. The fruit contain small black seeds that are eaten by pigeons and the leaves are an important food source for the Ulysses Butterfly in far north Queensland. The butterflies lay their eggs on the leaves which are consumed by the developing larvae before pupating. Family: Rutaceae

Silk Floss Tree - Ceiba speciosa

Paths strewn with large pink flowers announce the flowering of one of the most spectacular trees in our garden. The Silk Floss tree produces flowers on the ends of branches, allowing them to be easily spotted by flying pollinators looking for nectar. To fully appreciate these majestic and tall trees you need to walk down the path and view the trees from a distance to see the large canopy covered in pink flowers. Family: Malvaceae

Holm or Holly Oak - Quercus ilex

The Holm oak is native to the western part of Mediterranean basin, from North Africa to the South of Europe and is very common on the Iberian Peninsula. The wood was used to make charcoal and wine barrels, but this tree does produce two gastronomic delights. The acorns which are now appearing on our tree, are fed to black Iberian pigs to produce the best and most expensive ham. The other delicacy is the Black Truffle which has a mycorrhizal association with the tree’s roots. Neither pigs nor truffles are found in our garden. Family: Fagaceae

Learn more 

Why not join a Guided Walk of the Garden with one of our knowledgeable Volunteer Guides, daily at 10:30 am. Find out more here

Category: Horticulture
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