Psychotria fitzalanii

yellow-fruited psychotia


Psychotria fitzalanii

Benth. 1867

pronounced: sy-KOT-re-uh fitz-AL-an-ee-eye

(Rubiaceae — the gardenia family)


common name: yellow-fruited psychotria

native 4Psychotria is derived from the Greek ψυχη (psyché), life, and possibly οτρηρος (otréros), quick. Fitzalanii is for Eugene Fitzalan (1830-1911), an Irish born plant collector and gardener who came to Australia in about 1849. He was appointed as a botanical collector on the schooner Spitfire’s expedition in 1860 to investigate the estuary of the Burdekin River, and later collected for von Mueller. In 1861 he was a pioneer settler in the newly established township of Bowen, from where he made collecting expeditions to Mount Dryander, Mount Elliot (Townsville), Cairns, the Daintree River and Cooktown. Between these trips he established and managed a seed and plant nursery business in Bowen. In 1886 he moved to Cairns, where he was active in the initial development of the Cairns Botanic Gardens. He collected this plant at Port Molle, on Pelican Island, while on the Burdekin expedition, and it was described by George Bentham in volume 3 of Flora Australiensis in 1867. It had earlier been collected by Banks and Solander in 1770 at the Endeavour River.

The plant is usually found as a shrub, between 2 and 3 m tall, but can also grow into a small tree. The leaf blades are about 5 to 6 cm long (or a little more) by 2 cm or so wide. There are stipules about 2 mm long, and these have 2 lobes at their apex. The lateral veins are difficult to see on fresh leaves, and this is one of the chief characteristics that distinguishes it from Psychotria poliostemma, the lateral veins of whose leaves are much more easily observed. The petioles are flat on the upper surface.

The inflorescence is terminal, a panicle borne on quite short peduncles, usually 2 – 2.5 cm long. The flowers are small, less than 1 cm in diameter. The calyx lobes and hypanthium are covered with minute hairs. The corolla tube is about 1.5 mm long, the lobes about 2.5 mm long with an inflexed apex, and are also covered with minute hairs on the outside. The corolla lobes have a dense ring of white hairs at the point where the stamens are attached. The tiny mauve anthers, only about 1 mm long, are carried on even tinier filaments inserted in the corolla tube just below the petal fusion. The style is 4 or 5 mm long, with a bifid stigma, and its base is surrounded by an inflated ball-like cream-coloured disk.

The yellowish fruits are depressed globular in shape, 5 mm or a little more in diameter. There are usually two hemispherical seeds per fruit, with faint longitudinal ribs on the surface.

The plant is found in north-east Queensland, extending south as far as central Queensland. It mostly grows at altitudes of about 400-1000 m, in monsoon forest, vine thickets, and the drier types of rainforest.


Photographs taken behind Arcadia 2016
Page last updated 21st March 2019