Breynia oblongifolia  (Müll.Arg.) Müll.Arg. 1866

pronounced: BRAY-nee-uh ob-long-gih-FOH-lee-uh

(Phyllanthaceae – the Phyllanthus  family)

common names: Coffee Bush, Dwarf’s Apple

breynia oblongifoliacoffee bush breynia oblongifoliafloweringThis genus is sometimes placed in Euphorbiaceae, where it seems to me not to fit very well, as it does not exude latex when cut or broken.

Breynia was named in honour of Johann Philipp Breyn (1637–1716), German botanist and botanical author. Oblongifolia is from the Latin oblongus, longer than it is wide, and folium, a leaf.

breynia oblongifoliafruiting breynia oblongifoliafruit detailBreynia oblongifolia is an Australasian shrub, with arching branches, growing to about 3 m in height. It is bushy if growing in full sun, but sparse in shaded positions. It is found in New Guinea, Queensland and much of NSW, and is widespread in or near warmer rainforest, in littoral rainforest and on nearby dunes, and also in moist areas in woodland and eucalypt forest. In arid parts of western Queensland it is found in Acacia woodlands. It is quite useful for regenerating severely degraded ecosystems.

The alternate, ovate leaves (usually in the one plane) are 2–3 cm long, mostly 1–1.5 cm wide, the apex rounded, the upper surface green, and the lower surface a paler green. The petioles are 1–3 mm long, and the stipules small. The lateral leaf veins do not form distinct loops near the margins, and there are 4–6 of them each side of the midrib.

Small, green axillary flowers are produced in spring and summer, separate male and female flowers on the same plant. These are followed by orange to pinkish berries from summer through to autumn. They are quite small (6 mm or so in diameter), and black when fully ripe.    

The flowers attract butterflies, and the fruits attract birds. This is a food plant for the caterpillars of:
• the Common Grass Yellow Eurema hecabe,
• the Australian Rustic Cupha prosope and
• the moths Dysgonia infractafinis,
Achaea argilla and
Dysgonia frontinus .

In some places it has become a serious environmental weed, usually in association with Winter Senna (Senna pendula var. glabrata). Together they form dense, impenetrable thickets that choke out other species.

Although the birds eat the berries, they are reckoned to be poisonous to humans to a certain extent, which makes their common names quite dangerous: they may tempt people to taste the berries.

Photographs taken 2008, 2010, 2012 Hawkings Point & Picnic Bay

Page last updated 14th March 2018








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