28 August 2008


The Tuckeroo, Cupaniopsis anarcardioides, first came to my attention a number of years ago, gosh 20 or so, when an enthusiastic gardener friend of mine was telling me about a stand of Tuckeroos that had been identified at Tuggerah and horrors, the land on which they stood belonged to one of the power stations and they wanted to bulldoze the lot. I’m not sure what the outcome of that story was but the name Tuckeroo has stayed with me ever since. Confession time - I wasn’t that enamoured of native Australian trees at that time but hankered after luscious exotics.

Now Tuckeroos and I have become good friends. I’ve noticed them growing in Surry Hills, Sydney and proving to be attractive, tough street tree, coping in a tiny patch of dirt in a sea of concrete on a busy road. It was the fruit which first caught my eye. Rather large three sided orange berries, in bunches all over the tips of the branches.

I saw them again on a recent trip to Queensland and realized again how beautiful they are. They are obviously much more at home in the sub tropics and grow into very handsome trees, still the same inconspicuous flowers but such gorgeous orange fruits!

They are being utilized as a tough evergreen tree in all sorts of places in Brisbane I noticed and also alongside the carpark at the Sunshine Coast airport.

I do like it when I meet up with old friends, both human and plants.

The shortish trunk is rather handsome too being pale to dark grey with raised horizontal lines.

The flowers are relatively inconspicuous, OK let’s be honest, if you weren’t looking for them you wouldn’t notice them at all as they are very tiny and a pale, creamy green. They are about 5mm in diameter occurring on axillary branched panicles. The sepals are round, petals small with about 8 to 10 stamens up to 5mm long. The flowers appear in winter; but the ensuing 3 lobed fruits are the true attraction.

They are a large, three-lobed capsule, green to begin with and then turning a bright orange - very showy indeed. They split when mature to reveal black or dark brown seeds nearly covered by a bright red aril. The trees are most beautiful in late winter to early spring when the fruits ripen.

The foliage is dark green, thick and rather leathery. The leaves are alternate pinnate compound, with 2-6 pairs of leaflets and about 7 – 10 cm long. Each leaflet is a rather odd obvate shape with a blunt or notched apex, dark glossy green on top and a lighter green beneath. The veins are distinct on both the top and bottom of the leaves.

Tuckeroos deserve to be grown more readily as a street tree, anything to get rid of all the plane trees really. They are an evergreen, tough hardy tree that can adapt to difficult sites and even pollution laden air. They can grow up to about 8 metres tall with a similar width and have a full rounded crown. While they appreciate full sun they cope quite well with partial sunlight, or even quite a degree of shade. They can cope with many different soil conditions so are quite adaptable. The only thing they dislike is to have their roots remaining in water for any length of time. They are tolerant of coast exposure and salt spray too. They would make a good nurse tree for people attempting to regenerate bush land. They are frost tolerant but probably prefer the warmer northern coastal regions along the east coast of Australia.

15 August 2008

When birds turn...........

Sydney Botanical Gardens are beautiful any time of the year. I try to go as often as I can to watch the gardens change with the seasons. The harbourside location is hard to beat too.

Last week while I was there I couldn't help noticing the figs laden with fruit. One such is Ficus virens. There are a number of different figs in the gardens so this year there is plenty of food for the local birds and fruitbats. Tis a season of plenty at the moment.

Unfortunately the plenty also refers to the number of fruit bats living in the gardens, I have heard as high as 30,000. It is quite a wonderful and unusual experience to place yourself under the bat path and watch them exit each evening at dusk to fly to feed in nearby suburbs. Sadly there numbers are destroying large parts of the garden as they damage emerging shoots or break off branches.

But back to the fig.
This tree can, at most, be just over 200 years old and so is just a baby.

Underneath the fig, if you look carefully, you will see a couple feeding the birds. These are not pigeons or doves or other softy type birds. These are Australian sulphur crested cockatoos, with huge beaks meant for cracking open nuts and ripping holes in tree trunks to extract tasty grubs. There are signs around begging people not to feed the birds, but they are ignored. I would probably ignore them too if I weren't such a Goody Twoshoes.

Ignore at your peril. Here is what happens when you run out of food but the birds haven't run out of hunger.