Melicope rubra

little evodia


Melicope rubra

(Lauterb. & K.Schum.) T.G.Hartley 2001

pronounced: mell-ee-KOH-pay ROO-bruh

(Rutaceae — the lemon family)


common names: little evodia, evodiella

native 4Melicope is derived from the Greek μελι (meli), honey, and κοπη (kopé), a division; rubra is from the Latin ruber, red, ruddy. Evodiella merely means ‘little Evodia’, and this plant is a close relative to the genus Evodia, now called Euodia.

This is a small grey-barked tree that can grow up to about 6 m, with glossy green trifoliate leaves up to about 7.5 cm long. The foliage is strongly scented, with a hint of nutmeg.

The plant does flower and fruit while still quite a small shrub. Clusters of bright pink flowers occur along the branches during summer. They have 4 petals, and are up to 7 mm long. The flowers are followed by green citrus-like fruits that grow to 3 or 5 cm across.

The fruits are 4-angled capsules that split open at the top to reveal the black seeds. The surface of the capsules appear rough because of large oil glands. Birds such as lorikeets and honey-eaters are attracted to this plant. It is one of the host trees for the Ulysses butterfly Papilio ulysses, whose larvae feed on its leaves. The caterpillars of the Emperor Gum Moth Opodiphthera eucalypti also feed on it.

Until recently, the plant was not often seen in cultivation, but quite a few have now been planted, particularly in Picnic Bay. It occurs naturally in both lowland and highland rainforests, on the Queensland coast from Iron Range down to the Atherton Tableland. It is also found in Papua New Guinea. This suggests that it can tolerate a fairly wide range of climates. It has been cultivated as far south at Wollongong on the central NSW coast, but it does suffer greatly from frost, especially in exposed sites. Propagation is best from fresh seed.


Photographs taken in Nelly Bay 2012, Arcadia 2014, Picnic Bay 2015, 2017
Page last updated 4th February 2019