Australian Species of the Syzygium Plant Genus

Syzygium is a large genus of some 1,000 species, of which some 50 odd are found in Australia. Syzygium is part of the myrtle family (Myrtaceae). In general, syzygium are evergreen trees with a simple arrangement of leaves appearing opposite each other. The leaves are generally smooth and hairless. The stamens are much longer than the petals and sepals. They bear edible fruits of pink, red, white, blue or purple. They are mostly found in tropical and subtropical areas and different species are used for food, wood, hedging, topiary and general ornamental use. Birds are attracted to Syzygiums by the fleshy fruits.

Syzygium australe is commonly known as the brush cherry or magenta cherry. Eugenia paniculate is a synonym for this species. It is a small tree or shrub with elliptical to rounded leaves and brownish green upper stems. White flowers appear in small dense panicles (branched clusters). The edible fruits are fleshy and a purple-red colour. It is found naturally in the coastal and highland rainforests of eastern Australia.

Syzygium francisii or giant water gum may grow to 24 metres so is well-named. The tree has a spreading crown and the branches are almost horizontal. The trunk is conspicuously buttressed with slightly flaky bark. The leaves have wavy edges and are a glossy, dark green. In summer white flowers with cream stamens appear. Violet-purple globular berries follow attracting many birds.

Syzygium luehmannii (riberry, small-leaved lillypilly) (synonym Eugenia luehmannii) is another bird-attracting tree which grows to 15 metres with an 8 metre spread. It is endemic to the rainforest areas of Queensland and New South Wales. This is an excellent choice as a shade or screen tree and is also outstanding as a specimen tree. Clusters of small creamy white flowers appear in summer followed by brilliant coral red, pear-shaped fruits. The glossy leaves are a pale pinkish red when young becoming a dark green at maturity. It does not always go so tall when cultivated.

A rare species of Syzygium is Syzygium moorei (Rose apple, coolamon, durobby) (synonym Eugenia moorei). This is restricted in its range to a few locations in north-eastern New South Wales and south-eastern Queensland. It has flaky bark, large leathery leaves and panicles of pink or red flowers appearing on the branches and trunk. The large, edible fruits are a white-tinged green or pale dull pink.

Syzygium oleosum (synonym Eugenia coolminianum) is a small tree from coastal Queensland and New South Wales. Like S.moorei it has flaky bark. The leaves are a glossy green with paler undersurfaces. The flowers appear in clusters in summer. The violet-blue fruits may be ovoid or globular.

Syzygiums do best in moist, well-drained, deep fertile soil. They will grow in sun or semi-shade. Galls on the foliage are not uncommon on Australian varieties and scale is sometimes a problem.