australian frangipani

Australian frangipani


Hymenosporum flavum

(Hook.) F.Muell. 1860

pronounced: hy-men-oh-SPOR-um FLAY-vum

(Pittosporaceae — the pittosporum family)


common names: Australian frangipani, native frangipani

native 4Hymenosporum is derived from the Greek 'υμην (hymen), a membrane, and σπορα (spora), a seed, referring to the winged seed; flavum is from the Latin flavus, yellow

The plant occurs in north-eastern Queensland, and down the coast southwards into northern NSW as far as the Hunter River. In north-eastern Queensland it grows naturally at altitudes of 300 – 1000 m, in well-developed rainforest and tall open forests. It is also found in New Guinea. It is not considered to be at risk in the wild. It is a slender tree cultivated for its fragrant flowers, and is frequently grown as a street tree. It is not related to the exotic frangipani, Plumeria sp., although its flowers are somewhat similar in appearance. The young tree pictured has been planted as a street tree in Granite Street, Picnic Bay.

It is an evergreen tree that grows up to about 20 m tall, even taller in its natural habitat, with a DBH of 30 cm or more (60 cm has been recorded). The bark is grey and roughish, and the branches are sparse, growing in distinct horizontal layers radiating in whorls from the main trunk. They tend to be brittle, and can be damaged by strong winds.

The leaves are a dark green and glossy, hairy underneath. They are alternately grouped at the ends of the twiggy branchlets, and are oval-oblong in shape, 7 – 15 cm long.

This is a very fine flowering tree that begins to bloom in early spring, continuing into early summer. The flowers are quite large (about 4 cm in diameter), have a strong heady fragrance, and are coloured whitish cream aging to deep yellow. The calyx is about 7 – 9 mm long, pubescent outside but glabrous inside, held together by interlocking hairs on the margins. The anther filaments are hairy. In some forms the flowers may have a reddish centre. They attract honey-eating birds and butterflies.

The flowers are followed by pear-shaped woody brown capsules containing closely packed layers of flat winged seeds. The capsules are somewhat flattened, about 3 – 4 cm by 2.5 – 3 cm, 2-celled.

The tree likes a position in full sun or dappled shade, with protection from strong winds. It prefers a slightly alkaline soil.

A very compact form named “Gold Nugget” is becoming popular. This cultivar is a compact shrub, and grows only to about 1 m in height and width. It responds well to pruning, and can be used to make a low hedge.

Propagation is usually by seed, but cuttings are also successful. Cultivars should be grown from cuttings if they are to be true to the original form.


Photographs taken 2019, Picnic Bay

Page last updated 11th July 2019