Cupaniopsis anacardioides



Cupaniopsis anacardioides

(A.Rich.) Radlk. 1933

pronounced: ku-pan-ih-OPS-iss an-uh-kard-ih-OY-deez

(Sapindaceae — the lychee family)


common names: tuckeroo, carrot wood

native 4Cupaniopsis means that the tree resembles the genus Cupania, which was named for Francesco Cupani, an 18th century Italian monk and natural scientist who wrote Hortus Catholicus (The Universal Garden) and is most famous for his work with Lathyrus odoratus, the sweet pea. Anacardioides means ‘Anacardium-like’, a genus much used in homeopathic remedies. So our poor tree is only described as a look-alike! Tuckeroo is an Aboriginal name for it. Cupania and Cupaniopsis seem to be very closely related, with the former found in tropical and sub-tropical America, and the latter in Australia, PNG and the Pacific Islands.

The Tuckeroo is a very popular tree for roadside planting. There are dozens of them lining the Horseshoe Bay road, and, curiously, a pair planted by the City Council in Wansfell Street, Picnic Bay, near the junction with Granite Street, where the photographs were taken. It is also a common street tree in Brisbane.

This small tree is an Australian native, found in coastal sand dunes, scrubs and open dry rainforest near the sea or estuaries through Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland and NSW.

Tuckeroo grows to about 8 m high, with a similar spread. It is a very hardy tree that can adapt to difficult sites, such as poor soils, salt wind exposure, and pollution-laden air.

The shortish trunk is quite handsome, being pale to dark grey with raised horizontal lines.

The foliage is dark green, thick and rather leathery. The leaves are alternate, pinnately compound, with between 2 and 6 pairs of leaflets up to about 10 cm long. The leaflets are a rather peculiar ovate or obovate shape, with either a blunt or a notched apex, a dark glossy green on top and a lighter green beneath. The veins are distinct on both the top and the bottom of the leaflets.

The flowers are relatively inconspicuous: tiny, and a pale creamy-green in colour. They are only about 5 mm in diameter, on axillary branched panicles. The flowers appear in winter, but it is the fruits that are the real attraction.

These fruits are large, usually 3-lobed (but sometimes 2- or 4-lobed) capsules, green at first, then turning a bright orange. They split when mature to reveal in each lobe a black brown seed covered by a bright reddish yellow aril. The trees are most beautiful in late winter to early spring, when the fruits ripen.

The tree is generally too small to produce millable logs, but its light-pinkish wood is close-grained and tough. Despite being rather hard on tool edges, it is used by hobbyists in woodcarving and turning. It is also reckoned to make good tool handles.

The foliage and flowers of the tuckeroo are food for a number of Australian caterpillars, including those of:
      • the moth Homodes bracteigutta,
      • the Dull Oak Blue butterfly Arhopala centaurus,
      • the Felder’s Line Blue Prosotas felderi,
      • the Fiery Jewel Hypochrysops ignita,
      • the Glistening Blue Sahulana scintillata,
      • the Pale Ciliate Blue Anthene lycaenoides,
      • the Common Oakblue Arhopala micale,
      • the Common Tit Hypolycaena phorbas,
      • the White Line Blue Nacaduba kurava,
      • the Dark Ciliate Blue Anthene seltuttus and
      • the moth Peritornenta circulatella.


Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2008, Horseshoe Bay 2014
Page last updated 4th December 2018