Saturday, March 13, 2010

Planchonia careya - the Cocky Apple Tree.

Planchonia careya is a tree that is native to my part of Oz ... it is only found across northern Australia and the largest concentration of them is right here in my region.  It is in fact the only member of its genus here in Australia ... facts like this amaze me and I've grown to really appreciate this rather unsightly tree that's so prevalent in the bush that surrounds my home.

It is such a scraggly looking tree!  It's small  ... it only grows to around 4-10 metres high ... with rough, grey, slightly fissured bark.

The leaves are egg-shaped or spatula-shaped, tapering to the base, shiny light green above, dull beneath, and are rather soft and leathery to the touch.  This tree is deciduous in the 'dry' season and the leaves turn rusty-orange before falling.

OK ... the tree is not a great looker, but now we come to the flowers ... these are quite simply superb!

The flowering period is from late spring (September) through the summer (December to  February).  While each flower is truly outstanding, the flowering tree is really not that spectacular.  Only a few flowers are produced at a time and you have to be 'in the know' to spot them as they open in the evening and fall by the next morning leaving a carpet of flowers on the ground.

Flowers are large, white and fleshy with numerous long pink and white stamens.

In the following photo you can see the flower bud just below the open bloom ... that green outer casing peels back ...

... and the stamens are revealed!

A terrific thing about this bloom is the way it opens has a spiral action as it opens.

The fruit is green, egg-shaped and smooth.  Apparently it's edible although I've never given it a go.  It was a widely used food of the Aboriginal people who populated this area ... so it earns the title of 'bush tucker'.  Inside it has yellow flesh and is supposed to taste like a quince when it's ripe.

Many parts of the plant were also used for a wide range of medicinal purposes by the Aboriginal people.  One example ... the Aborigines used a concoction made from the bark to clean wounds such as burns and ulcers.   The bark ... which contains something called Saponin ... was also used as a fish poison. It was pounded and thrown into pools of water, killing the fish which could then be eaten without any ill-effect.

The common name ... Cocky Apple ... came about because the fruit is readily eaten by cockatoos and looks a little like a green apple.  While the Cocky Apple tree is very, very common in the bushland here, you won't find this tree in any nursery ... it has never been cultivated for the nursery market.  You will have to visit my part of the world to catch a glimpse of this unusual specimen.


  1. Wow, right off I wanted to know what the bloom in your header was and then you gave the info. A native exclusive to your area, how wonderful is that! Thank you for sharing this exotic beauty that most of us will never see in person. I love the spiral action of the bloom opening.


  2. What an interesting tree and great pictures - the blooms are amazing and the common name too cute!

  3. Spectacular flower! Love the way you described how it unfolds. Those stamens look so delicate and beautiful. I guess you have to stay late to capture the beauty of this bloom.

  4. Always looking for 'Australians' I can fit into my little plot!
    Won't be able to consider this guy, tho.
    Can't get enough of the blogs coming out of Australia at present.
    Greatly enjoy what you have to say,
    aka Bay Area Tendrils Garden Travel

  5. Hi Bernie,
    As always an interesting post from you. A fascinating plant and great photos
    cheers Ian

  6. What an interesting post! The flowers of the Cocky Apple are so pretty, and I was fascinated to read about their spiral action while opening. Thanks for sharing:-)

  7. I still can't get enough of this beautiful flower Bernie! One day I might see it for real!

  8. What a gorgeous flower. I love seeing photos of the beautiful Australian plants and this one is one of my new favorites :^)

  9. Thanks one and all for your kind comments ... this is definitely one of the more interesting natives that grows here.

  10. I love the way you have captured the beauty of the flower in various stages and the seed pods! Beautiful... I would want to grow your Cocky Apple! It is so cool to watch a flower unfurl... many do so in a spiral... there are so many spiral in nature. Lovely post Bernie! ;>)

  11. WOW WOW and WOW!For the first impression your blog makes; for the subject of this post (I guess one needs to know DRY to really appreciate the beauty of some plants - and in our varied climates I have come to love DRY. This is a beautiful tree!)And a third WOW for your photographic skills. I'll be back! Jack

  12. Hello - I think I have seen and eaten this fruit before - in CA we called it "Pineapple Guava" and it's a bulletproof landscaping stalwart in the CA heat and drought. I adore the fruit - a sweet custardy flavor with a jasmine-like flavor. Wish they would grow in my new Washington State, US home area!! I used to walk my dog with a dear lady on the paths behind her home in Sonoma Valley, CA and the Pineapple Guava shrubs were laden with fruit. We brought along an old pillowcase and filled it with fallen fruits that we each enjoyed for weeks. The fruit is very stable on a countertop indoors for quite a while so no need for preserving. Just cut in half when soft and scoop with a spoon - delicious!! Thanks for the great info and great memories! Cheers, Bonnie

  13. aloha bernie,

    i wonder if this is related to the feijoa/pineapple guava...the fruit looks the same and its delicious...the flowers are bright red...beautiful blooms, its so delicate - wouldn't it be amazing if they last longer than just one night? i'm glad you got to explain your header photo, i was always fascinated by that pic...thanks for sharing

  14. that is a fascinating bloom. thank you for sharing with us!

  15. Fantastic blooms, surprisingly large for such a delicate flower. Too bad they're so fleeting.

    I wouldn't mind stocking my tackle box with some bark.

  16. Always a joy to visit gardens from around the world, I'm delighted you came over for a visit, Bernie. I would never have found this lovely site. Your header and final photos are amazing!

  17. Hi Bonnie and Noel ... I looked up 'Pineapple Guava' and you're both right... the fruit does look remarkably similar. The blooms of the guava are more beautiful though ... just stunning.

  18. Joey ... thanks for the visit. It's fun tripping around the world visiting very different gardens ... I'm certainly enjoying popping in to visit gardens, like yours, and gardeners, like yourself. Such fun!

  19. Wiseacre ... I had to chuckle at your comment as my hubbie said the same thing when I told him about the way the Aborigines used the bark! Would save a lot of money if you didn't have to but bait!

  20. I am so taken with your header photo~very lovely. Cocky Apple is quite different from anything in my wilderness garden in TN~~including the cockatoos! gail

  21. Beautiful plant especially the flower. I wonder if it would grow down south in Aussie. I am always trying to build my bush tucker garden. Hey with climate change it seems to be getting warmer down here all the time.
    Bush Chick.

  22. I live in the rural area of Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. We have several Cocky Apple trees growing on our block. It is a lovely tree and I enjoy the seasonal changes of this tree. The flowers and fruits in the months leading up to Christmas. I am interested in finding out more about how the aboriginal people used it's medicinal properties.
    Johanne February 03 2018


I appreciate your comments and will endeavour to reply to all. All comments are moderated, so spam will be fried.

Related Posts with Thumbnails