Syzygium australe (Creek Lilly Pilly) - Australian Native Plant Profile
Common Names: Scrub Cherry, Creek Lilly Pilly, Brush Cherry
Species: Syzygium australe
Synonyms: Family: MYRTACEAE
Syzygium australe is an evergreen, woody, small to medium sized rainforest tree reaching a height of up to 25m in the wild but usually under cultivation reaching a maximum of 8m high by 4m wide if not kept restricted by pruning. It occurs naturally in the warm-temperate rainforests of the Australian states of Queensland and New South Wales.
Features of Syzygium australe
Syzygium australe in its natural form is an erect columnar tree with dense, glossy-green foliage. It has numerous white blossoms throughout Summer. It's fast growing in most conditions. It's also hardy and drought resistant once established. The new growth is an attractive bronze colour. Syzygium australe is a versatile habitat plant for native wildlife and attracts nectar feeding birds, larger fruit-eating birds and possums into the garden.
How to best use Syzygium australe in the garden
Syzygium australe can be shaped into a tight, dense hedge or planted as a specimen tree. It's also useful as a windbreak. It's salt tolerant and can be used to protect more sensitive plants from salt-spray when planted in coastal locations. The dense foliage of Syzygium australe makes an excellent shade tree once established. Councils have planted it locally along roadsides and used it as an attractive park tree. It's also suitable for use in topiary or bonsai. Several cultivars are available commercially. 'Blaze' and 'Tiny Trev' both grow under 1m tall and are suitable for growing in large containers. 'Bush Christmas' grows 2-3m tall and has lush new growth. 'Elite' grows 3m tall and has particularly dense foliage. 'Aussie Southern' grows 5m tall and is particularly hardy. A cultivar with variegated leaves is also available. There is a cultivar of Syzygium australe for most purposes.
Cultural uses of Syzygium australe
Indigenous people ate the pinkish red fruit which have a crisp (although astringently sour), refreshing texture. The fruits are used to make lilly-pilly jam when cooked with good quantities of sugar and pectin. Syzygium australe has been adopted by the Coffs Harbour City Council as their official floral emblem.
Syzygium australe is frost tender when young. It needs to be planted in an area that receives a minimal yearly rainfall of 750mm if not providing additional water. It may also out-compete less vigorous species planted near-by, so care should be taken to plant it somewhere that provides it with adequate space to grow.
Syzygium australe cultivation tips
Choose a full sun to partial shade position for planting, ensure that the soil is free draining. Incorporate humus into the soil on planting. Water or irrigate regularly after planting until the sapling is well established. Prune regularly when young to develop a strong central leader and bushy canopy. Renew mulch during Winter. Fertilise annually just prior to the growing season with a slow-release native plant fertilizer for vigorous growth. May require additional watering during extended dry periods greater than a few weeks. Scale insects and psyllids can disfigure the foliage but can be treated if desired. Remove by hand or spray scale with white oil during the crawler stage or an insecticidal soap during the adult stage. As sprays won't fix psyllid damage it is best to remove the affected leaves by hand and dispose of them in the trash. Propagate from fresh seed in Spring or by cuttings taken from firm, current season growth in Summer. Germination of planted seed may be erratic and slow, be sure to keep the growing media moist while waiting for the seedlings to germinate.