Psydrax attenuata

native Australian myrtle


Psydrax attenuata

(R.Br. ex Benth.) S.T.Reynolds & R.J.F.Hend. 2004

pronounced: SY-draks at-ten-yew-AH-tuh

(Rubiaceae — the gardenia family)

synonym — Canthium attenuatum

R.Br. ex Benth. 1867

pronounced: KAN-thee-um at-ten-yew-AH-tum

common name: native Australian myrtle

native 4Psydrax is from the Greek ψυδραξ (psydrax), a pimple, blister or bump; attenuata and atenuatum are from the Latin attenuatus, weak, meagre, reduced; canthium is possibly from ακανθα (akantha), a thorn, prickle.

The Psydrax genus consists of trees, shrubs and a few lianas. It was named by Joseph Gaertner in 1788 in his book, De Fructibus et Seminibus Plantarum. Gaertner may have chosen the name because of the bumpy texture of the surface of the timber, or because of the warty fruits of some species. The name was hardly ever used for the next couple of hundred years, because most authors placed these species in Canthium. Psydrax was re-instated in 1985, and 37 species were transferred to it from Canthium.

This tree is endemic to Australia, and occurs in the Northern Territory, Cape York Peninsula, north-east Queensland and southwards to south-east Queensland. It occurs in monsoon forest and open eucalypt forest, up to an altitude of about 800 m.

It is an erect spindly shrub or small tree, 1 – 10 m tall, and seldom exceeding 30 cm in DBH. The surface of the sapwood is corrugated.
The leaf blade is glabrous, about 5 cm or a little more in length, and between 1.5 and 3 cm in width. The stipules are resinous, and domatia are present. The blade is rather shiny on its upper surface, and is fairly brittle, cracking when folded. The leaf has lateral veins, more-or-less flush with the upper surface.

The flowers are white to cream-yellow in colour, and have a heady scent. They have very short calyx lobes. There is a distinct ring of downward-pointing hairs on the inner surface of the corolla tube. The corolla is about 5 – 9 mm in length, the lobes slightly longer than the tube.

The fruits are about 5 mm long. They eventually shrivel up to look like a currant.

The timber has a very attractive fleck right through to the heart, very much like the birdseye effect found in some eucalypts. Boards sawn from it are very stable, but half-logs for turning keep on cupping as you turn them for a long time. For turning it is best used spindle-wise, along the grain. It is a fairly dense and hard timber, but it machines quite well and sands very well. It will easily take a high polish.


Photographs taken on the Forts walk 2013
Page last updated 21st March 2019