Atractocarpus fitzalanii

native gardenia


Atractocarpus fitzalanii

(F.Muell.)Puttock 1999

pronounced: at-trak-toe-KAR-puss titz-AL-an-ee-eye

(Rubiaceae — the gardenia family)

synonym — Randia fitzalanii

(F.Muell)F.Muell. ex Benth. 1867

pronounced: RAND-ee-uh fitz-AL-an-ee-eye

common name: native gardenia

native 4Atractocarpus is derived from the Greek ατρακτος (atraktos), a spindle, an arrow, and καρπος (karpos), fruit. In the synonym, Randia is for the apothecary Isaac Rand (1674-1743), who was the first Horti Praefectus et Praelector Botanicus Chelseiani – Director and Lecturer in Botany at the Society of Apothecaries' Physic Garden, Chelsea. This garden, established in 1673, became pre-eminent among the botanic gardens of Europe in the eighteenth century following a favourable lease granted by Sir Hans Sloane (after whom the near-by Sloane Square was named) in 1722 and the appointments of Rand as Director and Philip Miller as gardener. Rand was renowned as a diligent botanist and enthusiastic ‘herbarizer’ and he was responsible for presenting nine hundred specimens of new plants grown at the Chelsea Physic Garden to the Royal Society. The plant collector Dr William Houstoun (1695–1733) named Randia in his honour.

Fitzalanii was named by von Mueller for Eugene Fitzalan (1830–1911), an Irish-born botanist who migrated to Victoria and thence to Queensland, and was botanical collector on the expedition that lead to the founding of Bowen. He later settled at Bowen, and moved to Cairns in 1887. He supplied many specimens to von Mueller.

This shrub or small tree can grow up to about 6 m high. It is of narrowly spreading habit, and is openly branched. It is an Australian native, and was a common plant in coastal rain forest that grows right down to the beach, the best plants growing close to the watercourses.

The leaves are large, opposite, dark green and glossy. In spring, clusters of highly perfumed small, white, tubular flowers are produced along the stems. These are star-shaped with 5 white to cream petals. These are followed by large yellow fruit, up to about 10 cm in diameter, that look rather like apples, and are edible when soft.


Photographs taken in Picnic Bay and by the West Point Road, 2008
Page last updated 14th October 2018