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Syzygium suborbiculare (Family Myrtaceae)

Forest Satinash, Apple, Lady Apple


Forest satinash occurs on Cape York Peninsula, Queensland, the north of the Northern Territory and the Kimberley region of Western Australia. It is also found in southern Papua New Guinea. The latitudinal range in Australia is 10-17o S and the altitudinal range is from near sea level to 220 m.(QLD, NT, WA)


Usually a small tree up to 12 m tall but also occurs as a creeping form on sand dunes. The bark is flaky on the trunk and the initially smooth branchlets become scaly with age. Adult leaves are variable in shape from almost circular to long and narrow. They are shiny green above, dull below, 7-19 cm long and 4-13 cm wide. There are numerous visible oil dots on the surface of the leaf. The flowers are cream coloured and the buds sometimes pink or red. The fruit is red and fleshy, 3-7 cm long 3.5-9 cm in diameter, sometimes with conspicuous ribs. There is only 1 seed per fruit. Mature fruits have been observed from August -June. There are up to 40 viable seeds per kilogram. The flesh should be removed from the seed immediately after collection. Germination is rapid when fresh but older seed may take several months to germinate.

Ecology/Way of Life:

The distribution is mainly in the hot humid and sub-humid zones. The area is frost-free. The mean annual rainfall is 880-1760 mm with a distinct summer maximum. It commonly grows near creeks and in gullies of sandstone plateaux, on sandy plains near watercourses and sand dunes near the coast and on nearby islands. Soils are often shallow, sandy and of low fertility. It is a very fire-tolerant species. This species is found in low rainforest, open-forest and woodlands but is not a dominant species. Associates in rainforest include Alphitonia excelsa, Glycosmis pentaphylla and Parinari nonda. Elsewhere it is found with Eucalyptus tetrodonta, E. miniata, Casuarina equisetifolia, Acacia crassicarpa and A. oraria, etc.

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

The heartwood is pale brown and moderately heavy. Bark included in the wood makes it unsuitable for sawn timber. Australian Aboriginals have used the trunk to make canoes. This species has great potential for use as a shade tree and for amenity planting. The fruits are edible and were an important Aboriginal food source containing vitamin C. The juice from cooked fruits can be used to ease chest congestion and an infusion of crushed leaves was used by Aboriginals to treat diarrhoea.

Other Comments:

Syzygium suborbiculare was originally named Eugenia suborbicularis by George Bentham in 1867. It was changed in 1973 to Syzygium suborbiculare byR.A. Perry and T.G. Hartley. The generic name is from the Greek suzugos = joined, referring to the joined petals present in the type (or first) species described in this genus; the species name comes from the Latin sub = less than or almost, and orbiculare = circular, and refers to the round leaves.

Further Reading:

Aboriginal Communities of the Northern Territory. 1993. Traditional Aboriginal medicines in the Northern Territory of Australia. Conservation Commission of the Northern Territory, Government Printer, Darwin.

Boland, D.J., Brooker, M.I.H., Chippendale, G.M., Hall, N., Hyland, B.P.M., Kleinig, D.A., Johnston, R.D. and Turner, J.D. 1984. Forest trees of Australia. 4th ed. Nelson and CSIRO, Melbourne. 687p.

Brock, J. 2001. Native plants of northern Australia. Reed New Holland, Sydney.

Doran, J.C. and Turnbull, J.W. (eds.) 1997. Australian trees and shrubs; species for land rehabilitation and farm planting in the tropics. ACIAR Monograph no. 24. Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, Canberra. 384p.

Topics: Climatic zones Soils Vegetation types Ornamental Medicinal use Fire Germination


Text & map from Australian Trees and Shrubs, courtesy Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research; text edited by J. Turnbull; photo courtesy D. Kleinig.

Sponsored by:

David Kleinig/ACIAR


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