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Tema aspera (Poison Peach) - Australian Native Plant Profile

Updated on June 29, 2012

Common Names: Native Peach, Poison Peach, Peach-Leaved Poison-Bush
Species: Trema aspera
Synonyms: Trema tomentosa var. viridis, Trema tomentosa var. aspera, Trema amboinensis, Celtis aspera
Family: ULMACEAE

Trema aspera is an evergreen, perennial, woody shrub to small tree growing to a maximum height of 6m with a spread of 4m wide.


Trema aspera leaves, showing signs of insect damage.
Trema aspera leaves, showing signs of insect damage. | Source

Characteristics

Trema aspera is a fast growing pioneer species. The leaves of this plant have an interestingly textured, sandpapery texture and have distinct venation and serrated margins. The bark of this plant is quite attractive. It's a host plant for the catterpillars of the Speckled Line Blue (Catopyrops florinda) and Jezebel Nymph (Mynes geoffroyi) butterflies. Many native Australian birds local to the area where it's naturally found growing, including the Brown Cuckoo-dove (Macropygia phasianella), Australasian Figbird (Sphecotheres vieilloti), Lewin's Honeyeater (Meliphaga lewinii) and Olive-backed Oriole (Oriolus sagittatus) eat the abundant, small, black fruits which can be found on the plant during any time of the year. Trema aspera grows well on many soil types and does well growing on all aspects. It doesn't suffer any major pests or diseases, although it can be susceptible to chewing insect attack.


How to use Trema aspera in the garden

The foliage of Trema aspera resembles the weedy (in Australia) Chinese elm (Ulmus parvifolia) and could be used as a replacement for this plant if desired. Due to its rapid growth it can be grown to provide shelter for younger, more sensitive plants until they become established. It can contribute to a mixed local rainforest planting and is useful in re-vegetation work. It also has the potential to grow to be a small, manageable shade tree. Can be used as a quick filler for a bare patch in the garden or kept pruned as a low screen.


Cultural uses

There are no known recorded uses, however the aboriginal name for the plant 'dinjin' suggests it may have been used to poison fish. The crushed leaves may have been used for this purpose.


Trema aspera - Limitations

Trema aspera should not be grown where it can be accessed by livestock as it has been recorded to causeacute liver necrosis in livestock if consumed in large enough quantities. It should not be planted within or adjoining farms, although typically animals will only foraged upon the leaves during drought conditions when nothing else is available. The plant is short lived, with a rather variable lifespan between 2 and 15 years. It's also not tolerant of frosts. Trema aspera is not commonly used in the horticultural trade and is not widely available in Australia however it can be obtained as tubestock from specialist native re-vegetation nurseries.


Natural environment of Trema aspera

Trema aspera grows naturally in regrowth and the margins of rainforest and moist sclerophyll forests of New South Wales, Queensland, the Northern Territory and Victoria. It grows in warm temperate and tropical climate zones. Can be found growing best in well drained, fertile moist sandy to clay loam soils.


Tips for growing Trema aspera

  • Ensure planting site receives good light.
  • Keep moist during summer, especially when young.
  • Incorporate organic mater such as compost into the soil during Spring.
  • Apply and refresh mulch during Winter.
  • Train to a single leader when young and remove any unwanted branches for good form.
  • Established canopies can be quickly lifted by trimming off lower branches if desired.
  • Propagate from seed during Spring.
  • Stem cuttings also strike readily.


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