Grewia retusifolia

dog's balls


Grewia retusifolia

Kurz. 1872

pronounced: GROO-ee-uh ryh-tews-sih-FOE-lee-uh

(Malvaceae — the hibiscus family)


common names: dog's balls, dysentery bush, diddle diddle

native 4Grewia is named for Nehemiah Grew (1641–1712), English philosopher, physician and botanist. In 1682 he published his great work, The Anatomy of Plants. It was divided into 4 books, Anatomy of Vegetables begun, Anatomy of Roots, Anatomy of Trunks, and Anatomy of Leaves, Flowers, Fruits and Seeds. The book was illustrated with 82 plates. Linnaeus thought highly of his work, and named this genus in his honour. Retusifolia is from the Latin retusus, dull, blunt, and folium, a leaf.

This is an erect or spreading shrub that grows in shady grassy areas It was described by early Australian explorers as being pleasant to eat, and they used the dried leaves to make a refreshing tea. It is found in secondary forests.

It grows to about 1.5 m, with alternate leaves. The petiole is short (less than 5 mm) and the leaf blades oblong-lanceolate, 6 – 8.5 cm long by 2 – 3.5 cm wide, bearing short branching hairs, especially on the lower surface. The flowers are small and white, and the fruits are 4-lobed drupes, the lobes globose, and a glossy dark reddish brown. The fruits are eaten when they turn brown: they are sweet and tasty. Emus are said to be partial to this fruit.

Aborigines not only eat the fruit, but use the bark and the leaves in medications. The Wardeman people around Katharine in the Northern Territory eat a mixture of the fruit of this plant and of Terminalia platyphilla to treat digestive orders and diarrhoea. Other tribes merely boil the leaves in water and drink the liquid. The Nalangbali clan uses the roots for a similar purpose. They skin the roots, wash them, crush them up and boil them, and drink the resulting liquid.


Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.

Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2009, 2010
Page last updated 9th January 2019