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Xanthostemon chrysanthus (F.Muell.) Benth. 1867
pronounced: zan-tho-STEE-mon kriss-ANTH-uss
(Myrtaceae — the gum family)
common name: Golden Penda
Xanthostemon comes from two Greek words, ξανθος (xanthos), yellow, and στημον (stémon), a thread (stamen); chrysanthus is from χρυσος (chrysos), gold, and ανθος (anthos), a flower.
Golden Penda is a rainforest tree found in the coastal rainforests of north Queensland from Townsville north to Cape York. It is a medium sized tree with a spreading crown which may reach 20 m in its natural environment but is usually smaller (between 5 and 10 m) in cultivation. The bark is rough and scaly. New growth leaves are reddish; mature leaves are stiff, dark glossy green above and paler beneath, and lanceolate, to about 15 cm long. The flowers occur in clusters near the ends of the branches; they are bright yellow and very conspicuous. The stamens are the principal feature of the flowers (like its relatives the eucalypts, bottlebrushes, etc.). Flowering usually occurs here in late summer and autumn. The flowers are followed by fruits, about 1 cm in diameter, with four segments, similar to those of the Lolly Bush, but without the purple and red.
The tree is a breathtaking sight in full bloom. There are hundreds of spidery golden yellow flowers, grouped in dense spherical terminal heads up to 15 cm in diameter. The blooms are very attractive to nectar-feeding birds.
Golden Penda responds very well to pruning, and may be kept to large shrub proportions if pruned annually, with massed flowers over the canopy. In sub-tropical and tropical areas it flowers reliably, and often within two or three years. While it will grow in temperate areas, flowering is less reliable. It has been successfully grown at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, but it is nor very vigorous there. Propagation is easy from fresh seed, but germination may be slow. Cuttings are also successful, using hardened current season’s growth.
The timber is very strong, and the indigenous peoples made spears and shields from it. Right from pioneering days, it was harvested for use in local bridge building, and this continued until most of its natural habitat was World Heritage Listed in the 1980s. The timber is rather susceptible to rot.
Golden Penda was selected at the theme plant for World Expo 88 in Brisbane, being planted en masse in flower as small shrubs presenting as a ‘Sea of Gold’. It was marketed at ‘Expo Gold’ and has been popular ever since in gardens in south-east Queensland and beyond. It is also used extensively as a street tree in south-east Queensland. Closer to home, it is the floral emblem of the Cairns City Council.
There are quite a few of these trees on Magnetic Island, and plantings are increasing.
Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2006-2012
Page last updated 10th March 2017