Our native forest fruits 2

nature shorts colourThe other rainforest fruit in our garden is the dear little tree that keeps on giving – no thorns here. To go with its sweet nature it has a sweet name – lilly pilly. Ours is a  Syzygium australe. The commercial name was Brush Cherry but these names can vary.

Lilly pilly’s  have a wide natural range from the rainforests of far North Queensland to the temperate rainforests of the southern states. Our lilly pilly occupies a shaded spot in the garden where nothing else we’ve planted over the years has survived.

It was  planted as small sapling only a year ago and has grown,

Lilly Pilly saplingIMG_8358

From this …..                                      to this.

It’s gifts are many and varied from leaves – glossy with red-tinged new growth,

IMG_8357 (2)

the light green buds,

lilly pilly buds 2

delicate white flowers,

IMG_8040

And of course the edible fruit which change from delicate pink to dark crimson.

Young lilly pilly fruitCrimson lilly pilly fruit

I have eaten the fruit at both stages, the darker fruit has a sweeter flavour. Other sites describe the fruit as a cranberry-like, but to me, they are much more like a tart light-textured (imagine lighter than a nashi pear) apple with a hint of rose flavour. I pick and wash them and eat them as is. Samantha Martin, known as the Bush Tukka Woman, says: ‘Lilly pilly berries are a perfect addition to any smoothie or fruit salad. They are also fantastic in jams, chutneys, ice-creams, savoury and sweet sauces, and can be baked into muffins for a sweet, healthy treat.” http://www.onyamagazine.com/lifestyle/food-drink/foodstuffs/move-aside-acai-berries/

http://www.booktopia.com.au/bush-tukka-guide-samantha-martin/prod9781741174038.html

Some of the lilly pilly fruits have largish seeds but others have a seed no bigger than a grape seed (which I just swallow)

IMG_8562 (2)lillypilly seed

Here in the Illawarra our lilly pilly starting fruiting in March and is still bearing edible fruit in late May.

Lilly Pillys picked in late May

Berries I picked yesterday

This can’t be the perfect tree? There must be a catch. Well there is. Many lilly pilly varieties are affected by psyllids (Trioza eugenia). These are tiny cicada-like creatures that lay their eggs on the leaves. The nymphs embed themselves in the leaf making a pit which shows as a lump or pimple on top of the leaf.

psyllid bumpspsyllid pits

My lilly pilly is psyllid-affected, but not badly. The nursery recommended removing affected leaves and keeping the plant healthy. We have subsequently installed a watering system and fed with Seasol.  Some sites recommend the pesticide Confidor – but I would definitely steer clear. The neonicotinoid chemicals within  Confidor have been implicated in decimating bee populations. http://www.see-change.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/PROTECTING-BEES-flyer.pdf

Besides, I prefer to keep a thriving ecosystem in my plants. This is just a few creatures I found on the lilly pilly  in the space of half-an-hour – potentially some of them feed on the psyllids.

 

small praying mantisBronze jumping spider?

A mantis and a small spider  (bronze jumping spider – Helpis minitabunda??)

 

green planthopper and nymphIMG_8799 (2)

A green planthopper (a sap-sucking insect) with nymph (I didn’t even notice the yellow-striped nymph when I took photo). Black beetle – I’m hoping these eat the psyllids

You can purchase lilly pilly varieties that are resistant to psyllids including Acmena smithii and Syzgium luehmannii.

I am not the only one who loves their lilly pilly. It is a favourite in Australian gardens for hedges, topiary and feature trees. But maybe it should be appreciated a little more for its bush food bounty.

The bored-doodle certainly does. She became goat-like when the lilly pilly came into fruit.

 

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