Terminalia muelleri

Mueller's damson


Terminalia muelleri

Benth. 1864

pronounced: ter-min-AH-lee-uh MEW-ler-eye

(Combretaceae — the false almond family)

synonym — Myrobalanus muelleri

(Benth.) Kuntze 1891

pronounced: my-roh-BAL-an-uss MEW-ler-eye

common names: Mueller's damson, Mueller's terminalia

native 4Terminalia is derived from the Latin terminus, end; muelleri is for Baron Ferdinand von Mueller, probably the most important of Australia’s early botanists.

Mueller’s Damson is usually found growing in sandy areas, fairly close to the beach. It is a small, deciduous tree that grows to about 9 m. If given the space, it forms a symmetrical, horizontally-layered silhouette from an arrow-straight trunk, similar to the ubiquitous Beach Almond (Terminalia catappa), although the leaves tend to be a little smaller (about 10 – 12 or occasionally 15 cm in length, by up to 8 cm wide). They are dull on the upper surface, whereas those of some of the other Terminalia tend to be shinier. The simple obovate leaves, with an entire margin, are arranged alternately, and clustered towards the ends of the branches, as are indeed the leaves of most species of the genus (hence Terminalia). Domatia are present and conspicuous on the lower leaf surface. There are hair tufts in the axil formed by the midrib and some lateral veins.

The leaves turn an attractive red in autumn and winter before dropping. In spring, the trees are decorated with spikes of tiny greenish white fragrant blossoms, which are followed by small dark blue fruits that are shortly beaked, and about 2 by 1.5 cm in size. They are almost identical in colour to the Damson plum – hence the common name. The fruits do not seem very attractive to wild life.

The tree is well suited for a street tree, and for other urban planting sites where a small tree is needed. It would also be a good garden tree. True, the fact that it is deciduous makes it rather messy, but the leaf drop is soon over and done with. Having lived for much of my life in a climate where almost all of the trees are deciduous, I feel that there is a lot to be said for having the leaf-sweeping-up confined to a short, if hectic, period of time each year, followed by months with scarcely any leaf fall at all.

In parts of the USA the tree is frequently used for planting in buffer strips around car parks. Where lines of these trees are planted, they should be about 6 m apart if their attractive shape is to be allowed to develop.
Propagation is by seed, but the tree does not appear to self-propagate very easily.

This plant is one of those collected in 1770 by Banks and Solander during the voyage of the Endeavour. It was collected at the Endeavour River (Cooktown).


Photographs taken on Nelly Bay Esplanade 2010-2013
Page last updated 19th April 2019