Fitzalania heteropetala

fitzalania in flower


Fitzalania heteropetala

(F.Muell.) F.Muell. 1864

pronounced: fitz-AL-len-ee-uh het-er-oh-PET-uh-luh

(Annonaceae — the custard apple family family)


common names: fitzalania, orange annona

native 4Fitzalania is named for Eugene Fitzalan (1830–1911). He was an Irish nurseryman who emigrated to Australia, and collected specimens on the expedition that led to the establishment of Bowen in Queensland. He later collected extensively in the Burdekin area. Heteropetala is from the Greek 'ετερος (heteros), different and πεταλον (petalon), a leaf.

This plant is endemic to Queensland, occurring in the east coastal region from Townsville south to the Mary River. It grows at altitudes from near sea level to about 100m, in coastal vine thickets and along stream banks. It seems to like sheltered spots on rocky slopes. Stands of it have been reported among rocks high above Rocky Bay, and along the higher parts of the track leading to Hawkings Lookout. There is also at least one plant growing by the trackside on The Forts walk.

It is an erect shrub to 4–5 m in height with distinctive horizontal branching. It will tend to scramble if growing among other trees. Its leaves are alternate along a zig-zag stem, and appear to rise from the stem in one plane. They are oval-shaped, 4 – 12 by 2 – 7 cm, covered in fine hairs above and below, more so below, and the veins are prominent. Oil dots are visible with a hand lens.

The flowers, dark maroon to almost black, are about 2 cm long, usually pendant, solitary in leaf axils, fragrant; the perianth is in 3 whorls, the smaller greenish whorl of 3, then 3 large purple tepals and then 3 smaller ones. The outer ones are about 2.5 – 4 cm long, and the inner less than 1 cm. Their inner surfaces are dotted with purple glands. The anthers are brown, the filaments pink. There are 1 – 5 ovaries, clothed in simple hairs. The usual flowering period is from October to June.

Bright orange indehiscent fruits are produced. They are elongate cigar-shaped, 3 - 5 cm long, in clusters of 1 – 12, derived from a single flower. They are covered in very fine hairs, and are velvety to the touch. They contain numerous disk-shaped seeds. While not very fleshy, the fruit is edible.

The plant may be propagated from fresh seed. Patience is needed, as germination can be very slow. Plants will fruit when they are about 35 cm high. The shrub tolerates deep shade, but does best in full sun.

This is a food plant for the larval stages of the Green Spotted Triangle (Graphium agamemnon) and the Pale Green Triangle (Graphium eurypylus) butterflies.


Photographs taken on Hawkings Point 2008, and on The Forts walk, 2016
Page last updated 1st January 2019