An Overview of Australian Species of the Lomatia Genus

The Lomatia genus is small and has only twelve species, nine from eastern Australia and three from South America. The tallest of these shrubs and small trees reach 18 metres and are found in rainforest areas. The leaves may be smooth, toothed or deeply divided. The flowers are borne on spikes and may be white, cream, yellow or, very occasionally, pink. The spikes may be in the leaf axils or at the tips of the branches. After flowering, leathery fruits appear. These fruits have two rows of winged seeds.

Lomatia arborescens has the common name of tree lomatia. It grows from two to nine metres high and has a spread of about 4.5 metres. It is endemic to the Border Ranges between Queensland and New South Wales. The leaves are a shiny dark green and have toothed edges. In summer, white, cream or yellow flowers appear in the leaf axils. The flowers have a delightful scent and are followed by egg-shaped leathery fruits.

The holly-leafed lomatia (Lomatia ilicifolia) is smaller and grows to two metres. It is native to New South Wales and has dense foliage with scalloped-edged holly-like leaves. It has a profuse display of small cream flowers in summer. This is one of those Australian natives which is able to resprout from its woody rootstock after bushfires. Birds are attracted to this species.

The so-called river lomatia is also attractive to birds and is found in New South Wales and Victoria. The leaves are long and narrow and are darker on the upper surfaces. The cream flowers are scented and appear as axillary spikes in summer with the flattish brown fruits ripening in autumn. Its scientific name is Lomatia myricoides.

Lomatia polymorpha is an erect shrub native to Tasmania. It occurs in all areas from rainforests to alpine regions. The leaves are narrow and a deep- to yellow-green shade. They may reach 10cm in length. Striking heads of relatively large cream blossoms are displayed in late spring.

The crinkle bush or native parsley are both common names for Lomatia silaifolia. This small shrub is found on acid soils in heaths and woodlands on the east coast of Australia from south-east Queensland to south of Sydney in New South Wales. It sprouts readily after being burnt. The leaves vary from pinnate to bipinnate and tripinnate. The margins of the leaves are always toothed. The scented creamy flowers are displayed from summer through autumn.

Lomatia tinctorial (guitar plant) grows to two metres and is endemic to Tasmania. It has mostly erect stems which spring from underground rhizomes. The stems have few branches. The leathery leaves may be pinnate or bipinnate with 4 to 8 pairs of dark green leaflets with toothed edges. Spikes of cream or white flowers are borne at the stem or branch tips during summer.

Cultivating Lomatia under garden conditions will depend on the natural habitat of the species chosen. Some like a sheltered, moist position with protection from frosts while others will tolerate some dryness and/or frost.