Canarium australianum

brown cudgeree

Canarium australianum

F.Muell. 1862

pronounced: kuh-NAIR-ee-um oss-trah-lee-AH-num

(Burseraceae — the myrrh family)


common names: brown cudgeree, mango bark, turpentine tree

native 4Canarium is from the Moluccan vernacular name for this genus (kanari). Bursera is named for Joachim Burser (1583–1649), a German physician and botanist, who, in 1625, was appointed professor of Medicine and Botany at the Ritter-Academy in Sorö, Denmark. Burser is a very important figure in the development of the science of Botany. Both before and after his appointment to Sorö, he made extensive travels in Germany, Austria, Bohemia, Switzerland, Italy, France and the Pyrenees, during which he collected plant materials. These he arranged in a Hortus Siccus (literally ‘dry garden’), an herbarium in book form. There were 25 volumes, and a supplementary volume on Danish plants. There were nearly 4000 sheets 20 x 35 cm in size. Although two of the volumes were later lost in a fire, this book was a very important source for Linnaeus in his Species Plantarum, and still remains an important source for the understanding of Linnaeus’s system of naming plants. Hortus Siccus is preserved in the University library at Uppsala.

Canarium is a genus of about 75 species in this family. It consists of tropical and sub-tropical trees native to tropical Africa, southern Asia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Australia. They are large evergreen trees (some of them up to 50 m tall), with alternate pinnate leaves.

Brown Cudgeree, a large tree with an open, spreading crown, is quite a common tree in the woodlands around Townsville, and on Magnetic Island. The specimen photographed is on the edge of some remnant forest over the road from the environmental walk in Nelly Bay.

The leathery pinnate leaves have 5 – 9 leaflets with prominent lateral veins that are often pale-coloured.

The flowers are creamy white, borne in pendant racemes.

The fruit is a smooth blue drupe about 2 cm long, containing an edible nut. Superb Fruit-doves (Ptilinopus superbus) are known to be fond of the fruits, which they swallow whole. Torres Strait Pigeons (Ducula spilorrhoa) also consider them a delicacy. I have been interested to notice that trees situated on the river plains of the various bays are generally entirely denuded of fruit, whereas another Brown Cudgeree tree, situated by the roadside on the hill between Picnic and Nelly Bays, is usually loaded with fruit. Perhaps the latter tree is not in the birds’ normal habitat. There is a further specimen in the line of trees along the outside of the recreational camp in Picnic Bay. It usually carries a moderate crop of fruits!

Aboriginal peoples also ate the nuts. A resin found on the roots was also an important source of bush wax, used in the manufacture of many of their tools and weapons.

The tree yields a useful non-durable general purpose timber with a natural resistance to termites. In appearance it much resembles the timber of Gmenina fasiculiflora, a very durable timber much used in Queensland for windowsills, and this has caused Canarium australianum timber to be used for similar purposes. This substitution is not successful, as its wood does not last in the harsh Queensland climate when used externally.

This plant is one of those collected in 1770 by Banks and Solander during the voyage of the Endeavour. It was collected at Cape Grafton.


Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2008-2013, and Nelly Bay 2013-2015
Page last updated 27th October 2019