Gossia bidwillii

scrub python tree


Gossia bidwillii

(Benth.) N.Snow & Guymer 2003

pronounced: GOSS-ee-uh bid-WILL-ee-eye

(Myrtaceae — the gum family)

synonym — Austromyrtus bidwillii

(Benth.) Burret 1941

pronounced: oss-trah-MERT-uss bid-WILL-ee-eye

common names: scrub python tree, python tree, scrub ironwood

native 4Gossia is named for Wayne Goss (1951 – 2014), former Premier of Queensland; bidwillii is for John Carne Bidwill (1815 – 1853), an English botanist who worked in NSW. In the synonym, Austromyrtus is from two Latin words, australis, south, myrtus, the myrtle tree.

This is a medium-sized tree, endemic to eastern Australian coastal districts north of the Hunter Valley, usually found in monsoon forest and similar dry rainforest situations. There are several of these trees growing alongside the road out to the old jetty in Geoffrey Bay. The tree is usually about 5–6 m tall, though it can grow much larger, and up to 20 cm in trunk diameter. The trunk is bendy, the bark smooth and orange to brown in colour with attractive green blotch markings – hence the ‘python’ – and a cool, smooth feel. It sheds its bark in thin papery flakes.

The leaves are opposite, simple and entire, 5 – 8 cm long, ovate-elliptic in shape, the petiole about 5 mm long. Oil dots can easily be seen with a hand lens, and the leaf smells vaguely of eucalyptus. The midrib is grooved or depressed on the upper surface of the leaf, and there is an intramarginal vein.

The flowers are white and scented, usually in axillary racemes; there are 5 sepals, usually 5 petals up to about 5 mm long; there are numerous stamens, also to about 5 mm long.

Fruits are 5 or 6 mm in diameter or a little more, black globular berries with persistent calyx lobes. They are sweet, and eaten by birds.

Like all the trees termed ‘ironwood’, this tree produces an exceedingly hard, close-grained wood, that can be used for mallets, the sheaves of pulley blocks, turnery, etc.

The tree is suitable for growing in a small garden. It can be difficult to establish (cuttings do not strike easily), but can be propagated from fresh seed, though seeds are not viable for very long. It requires good drainage, and responds well to fertile soil.


Photographs taken at Geoffrey Bay 2012, 2013
Page last updated 6th January 2019