Ganophyllum falcatum

scaly ash


Ganophyllum falcatum

Blume 1850

pronounced: GAN-oh-fill-um fal-KERT-um

(Sapindaceae — the lychee family)


common names: scaly ash, Daintree hickory

native 4Ganophyllum is from the Greek γανος (ganos), brightness, sheen, and φυλλον (phyllon), a leaf – bright leaf; falcatum is from the Latin falcatus, sickle-shaped.

The Scaly Ash is found across northern Australia and down the east coast as far as Rockhampton, in coastal vine thickets and scrubs and along streams, in well-drained soils. It is sometimes found among mangroves. It is also found in PNG and Indonesia, where it may be found growing in forests up to 1,200 m in altitude.

The tree normally grows to 8 – 12 m in height, with a dense crown. As a canopy tree, it is capable of growing as high as 40 m. The bole is cylindrical, up to 95 cm in diameter, and, when a canopy tree, straight. There may or may not be buttresses. The bark is grey, dark brown, or slightly black; it may be rough, scaly or flaky, and the young branchlets are resinous and slightly flaky.

The leaves are spaced along the branches, occurring singly at a node and arranged spirally up the branchlet. They are pinnate, 15–35 cm long, with between 10 and 20 alternate leaflets. These are ovate to oblong, 6 – 20 cm by 5 – 7 cm, unequal at the base, shiny dark green above and paler beneath. The tips of the leaflets are pointed. The tree is dioecious: the photographs of the male tree were taken opposite the newsagency in Alma Bay, on the right-hand side of the path leading to the beach; the female tree observed is to the right of the entrance to the RSL Club in Arcadia.

The tiny flowers are greenish white, 2 –  5 mm in diameter, borne in large panicles 10 – 30 cm long in the upper axils. The male flowers have 5 stamens. The female flowers are incredibly basic! The fruits are ovoid drupes with a pointed tip, and turn bright orange-red when ripe. They are smooth and fleshy, and measure 10 – 15 mm by 6 – 8 mm. They contain one (occasionally 2) seeds, about 8 mm long by 12 mm wide.

This is a fast-growing shade tree suitable for coastal districts, and can be propagated from fresh seed. Its wood shows strong resistance to termites, and thus is a useful hardwood for tropical buildings. It appears to be toxic to Coptotermes acinaciformis, the subterranean termite, and Nasutitermes exitiosus, a species that builds a mound nest which protrudes 30 – 75 cm above the ground. Compounds extracted from the wood have been used to try to synthesize new compounds that can be used for termite-proofing buildings, but I have not been able to discover a great deal about them.
Further north, the leaves of this species are eaten by Bennett’s Tree Kangaroo, Dendrologus bennettianus. The leaves have a slightly nutty flavour to the human palette.

The tree has long been harvested commercially for hardwood timber. The wood is hard and fairly durable, and has been used for house and bridge construction, boat building, and furniture making. It turns and finishes well. It is also suitable for the manufacture of plywood, face veneer and paper pulp.


Photographs taken at Arcadia 2010, 2013
Page last updated 3rd January 2019