Terminalia arenicola

brown damson


Terminalia arenicola

Byrnes 1977

pronounced: ter-min-AH-lee-uh ah-ren-EE-koh-luh

(Combretaceae — the false almond family)


common names: brown damson, beach damson

native 4The name Terminalia comes from the Latin terminus, end, and refers to the clustering of the leaves at the ends of the shoots; arenicola is also from the Latin, arena, sand, and incola, an inhabitant- a dweller in sand.

One of 6 species of beach almonds growing on Magnetic Island, this Australian native is found along most of the Queensland coast, but in greatest numbers between 16ºS and 20ºS latitudes. The tree pictured grows on the edge of the vine scrub on the Nelly Bay foreshore. The true native distribution of the species is rather difficult to determine, as it is much cultivated along beaches in north-east Queensland, particularly on the northern beaches of Cairns, as it provides good shade. It is also used as a street tree in parts of Cairns.

The tree is very similar in shape and size to Terminalia catappa, the species usually preferred for cultivation in the Townsville and Magnetic Island region. It can grow up to about 10 m tall, and is usually deciduous, leafless for a period in September or October. The branches grow at a wide angle to a central leader, growing sympodially, with leaves clustered at the ends of the branchlets. This gives the trees a characteristic pagoda-like appearance, as with many of the genus.

The leaves are petiolate, arranged spirally. In common with all other members of the Combretaceae family, the leaves are simple with entire margins, and have no stipules. The leaf blades vary from about 10 to 20 cm in length, by 6 to 14 cm in width; 2 flat glands usually visible on the underside of the blade near its junction with the petiole. Domatia are present, foveoles often with hairs at the orifice.

The white inflorescences are as long as, or shorter than, the leaves, and occur on axillary spikes, with bisexual flowers at the base and male flowers towards the tips. Male flowers have an aborted ovary. There are 10 stamens and 2 ovules. The bracts are narrowly triangular, only about 1 mm long, and caducous. The perianth tube is appressed, pubescent to thinly pilose, with triangular lobes, glabrous or thinly pilose. The staminal filaments are about 2 mm long. The disk is villous, and the style glabrous. The flowers produce a foetid odour that most people find unpleasant.

The mature fruits are ovoid in shape, glabrous, from about 25 - 40 mm long, 17 -  25 mm wide, and 14 - 18 mm thick, with a short beak, slightly compressed, sometimes with lateral angles. There is one seed per fruit, about 12 by 2 mm. The fruits turn red to purple when ripe.


Photographed in Nelly Bay, 2017
Page last updated 19th April 2019