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Pterocaulon sphacelatum (Labill.) F.Muell. 1882
pronounced: ter-oh-KAW-lon spass-el-LAH-tum
(Asteraceae – the daisy family)
common names: Apple Bush, Fruit Salad Bush, Yunga-yunga
Pterocaulon is derived from the Greek πτερον (pteron), a wing, and καυλος (kaulos), a stem, referring to the appearance of the leaves on the stem; spacelatum is also from the Greek, σφακελος (sphakelos), gangrene, mortification, a spasm, convulsion.
This plant is found only in Australia, relatively common throughout the tropical and subtropical parts of the country. It occurs in dry grasslands, and as a roadside weed. The plants photographed were growing near the pumping station at the end of the bitumen on the West Point road. It is a self-seeding biennial forb, with spherical flowerheads. It is a fast grower, and will grow either in full sun or in partial shade. It is aromatic, has an erect or straggling growth habit, 20 – 120 cm high, and is woolly to tomentose, with the hairs brownish. The plant is moderately frost tolerant.
The compound flower heads are sessile or pedunculate, ovoid to globose, solitary, up to 2 cm long with much the same diameter. The outer bracts are spatulate, and the inner ones linear-lanceolate, whitish to pink in colour. The plant possesses only disk florets. The florets vary in colour from pink to purple. The achenes are nearly 1 cm long, and the pappus about 3 mm.
Apple Bush plays a very important part in indigenous medicine, and was soon adopted as a bushman’s remedy by early European settlers. Although these bushmen called the plant ‘horehound’ (taken from a European herb Marrubium vulgare ), it is very likely that they derived their use of this plant from the Aboriginal peoples. They used a decoction of the leaves as a treatment for colds. Some flavoured their tea by putting a leaf or two in the billy as it came to the boil.
The Aborigines of central Australia use it in a variety of ways to treat colds:
- leaves may be inserted through a hole bored through the nasal septum;
- a bundle of leaves may be wrapped up and used as a pillow;
- crushed leaves may be mixed wth animal oil to make a massage ointment.
Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.
Photographs taken near Bolger Bay August 2016
Page last updated 12th February 2018