Lophostemon grandiflorus

northern swamp box


Lophostemon grandiflorus

(Benth.) Peter C.Wilson & J.T.Water. 1982

pronounced: loff-oh-STEE-mon gran-dee-FLOR-iss

(Myrtaceae — the gum family)


common names: northern swamp box tree, northern swamp mahogany

native 4Lophostemon is from the Greek λοφος (lophos), a tuft of hair, and στημων (stémon), a thread (stamen) – a cluster of stamens; grandiflorus is Latin, grandis, large, and flos, a flower.

This is a genus of only four species, Lophostemon confertus (Queensland Box, Brisbane Box), Lophostemon grandiflorus (Northern Swamp Box), Lophostemon lactifluus and Lophostemon suaveolens (Swamp Box, Swamp Mahogany, Swamp Turpentine) all of which are native to Australia, and some extend to PNG. All species except Lophostemon lactifluus are known to be growing on Magnetic Island. The genus is a relatively recent creation: all of these were formerly included in the related genus Tristania.

Lophostemon grandiflorus
is endemic to Australia, occurring across the top end and down the east coast as far as central Queensland. It usually grows as a rheophyte along creeks and gullies through open forest, but sometimes occurs in gallery forest and on the margins of rainforests.The pale brown bark is almost fibrous, and is persistent. Epiphytic and parasitic plants often grow on the bark, including the Box Tree Orchid, Dendrobium aemulum, and mistletoes. There are oil dots visible in the leaves, with a hand lens if not visible to the naked eye. The leaf blades measure about 5 – 12 cm by 2 – 6.5 cm. The leaves are thick, ovate and dark green. The midrib is more-or-less flush with the upper surface. The underside of the leaves is much paler, almost white.

The flowers are white, with persistent calyx lobes, and occur in threes. The 5 staminal bundles are up to 4 or 5 mm long, opposite the petals. There are usually 18 – 45 stamens per bundle, giving a fluffy appearance to the flowers. Bees find the flowers very attractive. From the beekeeper’s point of view, these are very productive trees when they have a heavy flowering, but this does not occur every year. The trees are reluctant to flower heavily, unless there has been a very dry summer, and then only after the creek runs – the tree then buds and flowers very quickly.

The fruit is up to 1 cm in diameter, included in the calyx tube. The seeds are linear about 1 – 2 mm long.

Box trees have heartwood that ranges from pink-brown to red-brown, but is often very variable between trees. The sapwood is usually slightly paler in colour. The grain of the heartwood is close-textured, and sometimes interlocked. It is a moderately hard wood, with an above-ground life expectancy of 7 - 15 years, and an in-ground expectancy of 5 - 15 years. The sapwood is not susceptible to lyctine borer attack, and the timber is resistant to termites. It is a tricky timber to season, as it distorts easily. It has been used for marine piles, and as sawn timber in house construction. It can be turned, and is also used for parquetry and joinery. It takes its toll on tools and machine cutters due to the presence of silica in the wood. It makes good butchers’ chopping blocks.

The members of this genus are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species, including Aenetus ligniveren, the Splendid Ghost Moth, and Chaetocneme denitza, the Rare Redeye.


Photographs taken at Arcadia and Horseshoe Bay 2009-2014
Page last updated 29th January 2019