The Persoonia genus is endemic to Australia. It consists of around 100 species of evergreen shrubs or small trees. It is part of the protea family (Proteaceae). The fruits are succulent yellow or green drupes. They may be produced in large, heavy clusters.
Most of the Persoonia species which occur in the eastern parts of Australia share a common name of ‘geebungs’.
Persoonia levis is known as the broad-leaved geebung and grows to 5 metres. It comes from coastal New South Wales and eastern Victoria. The bark is dark red and flaky and the large sickle-shaped leaves are light green in colour and may grow to 20cm in length and 8cm wide. The yellow flowers appear singly on short stems. The flowering season is from spring to summer.
Persoonia linearis has the common name of narrow-leaf geebung and is an erect, open shrub from eastern New South Wales and Victoria. The leaves are narrow and gently pointed. Like persoonia levis, the flowers are yellow and appear on short stalks and on the ends of the branches. This species flowers in summer.
Persoonia mollis grows to 5 metres and is a variable shrub. There are nine subspecies, listed according to the width and type of leaf. Some have broad leaves, others thin, needle-like leaves and some have the margins rolled under. The stems may be hairy and/or the new growth silky and copper-coloured depending on the variety. Small golden flowers are produced in the leaf axils from summer to autumn. This species likes sandy soil.
Persoonia nutans is an endangered species which is found only in a small area near the Nepean and Georges Rivers near Sydney in New South Wales. It is a low spreading shrub with flat, linear leaves and yellow flowers on slender, drooping stalks in the axils of the leaves. If it can be obtained, it is a good choice for rock gardens or containers.
An elegant species is Persoonia pinifolia or pine-leaf geebung is native to the Sydney district and lower Blue Mountains. It has drooping branchlets and soft, pine-like foliage. It produces abundant dense spikes of golden flowers at the branch tips in summer and autumn. The flowers are followed by pale green fruits which are streaked with purple.
Persoonia longifolia is endemic to Western Australia and goes by the strange name of ‘snottygobble’. It is a graceful woodland tree with a weeping habit. The flaky bark is a dark reddish to bronze colour. The fruits are a jellybean shape. The green, fleshy outer layer has been a source of bush tucker for the local Nyoongar aborigines, who also used the cambium layer of the tree for medicinal purposes.
The small, sweet fruit is mucous-like and green hence the first part of its rather singular name. The ‘gobble’ part apparently came about when early settlers observed pigs hastily consuming the fruit. From June to July when the fruit is falling, emu droppings may consist almost entirely of Snottygobble fruit.
Persoonias like full sun or part-shade. They also prefer light acidic soil and need really good drainage. These plants are not easy to find for the home garden as the seeds do not germinate easily and neither do cuttings ‘take’ very readily. If you do manage to find one, they respond well to pruning.