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Planchonella pohlmaniana (F.Muell.) Pierra & Dubard. 1912
pronounced: plan-chon-ELL-luh pole-man-ee-AH-nuh
(Sapotaceae – the gutta percha family)
common names: Yellow Boxwood, Black Apple, Engraver’s Wood
Planchonella is named for L. Planchon (1858-1915), a professor of pharmacy and botanical author; pohlmaniana is for R.W. Pohlman, a Melbourne judge who was respected by Ferdinand von Mueller.
This is an Australian native species found growing from Weipa in North Queensland down as far as the Richmond River in NSW. It is usually found in dry rainforests.
The tree will grow up to about 20 m in height, with a trunk to about 50 cm in diameter. The trunk is usually straight, flanged in larger specimens. The bark is greyish brown, on older trees generally scaly showing shallow depressions left by fallen scales. The underbark is pitted, brown and with vertical lines of cream lenticels.The blaze is pale to medium brown, with vertical lines towards the outer margins. Close to the sapwood it is almost white. Immediately after the surface is cut, a milky white sap exudes fairly slowly, the amount of sap depending on the time of the year.
The simple leaves are alternate, their margins entire, their shape oblanceolate. They are 8-13 cm long, 1-5 cm wide, the apex rounded or bluntly pointed, the base tapering. The leaves are thin and papery, the upper surface is green and glossy, and slightly paler below. The midrib and the main lateral veins are raised on the upper surface. The secondary veins and margins are yellowish The leaves are crowded at the ends of the branchlets, on petioles 5-25 mm long, and mostly hairy..
The insignificant creamy white flowers grow in clusters of of about 4-12 in the leaf axils, quite often on old wood where the leaves have already fallen. The sepals are ovate, about 3.5 – 3 mm, yellowish sericeous or pubescent on the outer surface, glabrous on the inner surface. The corolla is about 3 or 4 mm long, The staminodes are oblong or linear, about 1 mm long. The ovary is also about 1 mm long, brownish yellow in colour, and hirsute. The style is 2-3 mm long. The flowers only open sufficiently to provide about a 1 mm hole for access by the pollinator.
The green or black globular fruit, 2-3 cm in diameter, is fleshy. with 3-5 glossy brown seeds, each with a characteristic elongate white scar.. The fruits were eaten by the indigenous peoples.
A useful timber is yielded. The heartwood is pale yellow-brown with a slightly paler sapwood. The texture is very fine and even, with the grain sometimes slightly interlocked. It dries well, is firm and relatively easy to work, and glues well. It was much used for boxwood rulers and T-squares, as well as for chessmen and engraving blanks. It has also been used for artificial limbs, turnery, and kitchen utensils.
Photographed on Magnetic Island 2017
Page last updated 9th February 2018