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Alectryon reticulatus Radlk. 1891
pronounced: a-LECK-tree-on ret-ick-yoo-LAH-tuss
synonym: Alectryon unilobatus S.T. Reynolds 1983
pronounced: a-LECK-tree-on yoo-nee-low-BAH-tuss
(Sapindaceae — the lychee family)
common name: Wild Quince
Alectryon is from the Greek αλεκτρυων (alectryon), a cock, referring to the cockscomb appearance of a ridge on the fruit. It was the name of a Greek youth who stood guard outside Aphrodite’s door when she was visited in the night by Ares, the god of war. Alectryon fell asleep, and Helios, the sun god, was able to enter the room and discover the lovers. As a punishment, the youth was turned into a cock, who daily announces the arrival of the sun. Reticulatus is Latin, net-like. Most authorities give A. unilobatus as a synonym, but the Kew Plant List records them as separate species. Unilobatus is Latin, single-lobed.
This little tree occurs in Cape York Peninsula, north-east Queensland, and southwards as far as south-eastern Queensland. It grows in monsoon rainforest and also in the drier rainforests, probably up to an altitude of about 300 m. The plant is also found in New Guinea. The photographs were taken in the scrub round the Horseshoe Bay lagoon, and the tree has also been observed in scrub patches in Florence Bay, and between White Lady Bay and Bright Point.
The plant usually grows into a small tree, but can also flower and fruit as a shrub.
Its compound leaves usually have between 3 and 7 leaflets, with the petiole swollen at its junction with the twig, and the rachis compound on the upper surface. The leaflet blades are about 5 – 7 cm long by 2 – 2.5 cm wide, on stalks 2 – 4 mm long. Terminal buds are covered in prostrate light brown hairs. The lateral veins form loops inside the leaf margins, but these are often indistinct. The leaflet stalks have a ridge down the middle of the upper surface, and a groove on either side.
The inflorescence is a panicle, usually from 3.5 – 11 cm long. The pedicels are only about 3 mm long, and the individual flowers 2 – 3.5 mm in diameter. The calyx is saucer-shaped – there are no petals. Five stamens are inserted in the disk, with tiny filaments (about 0.5 mm long) supporting 2 mm long anthers.
The fruits are glabrous, 8 – 16 mm by 8 – 14 mm, with the calyx persistent at the base. Remnants of the style can often be seen laterally on the fruits. There can also often be seen a single longitudinal rib encircling the fruit, but the fruit does not rupture along this line. Instead, the expanding aril forces it to rupture transversely in the equatorial region.
The seeds are about 6 mm long, with a deep red granular aril that has a rugose surface, and covers up to three-quarters of the seed.
Photographed in Horseshoe Bay 2018
Page last updated 9th April 2018