Timonius timon

timon tree


Timonius timon

(Spreng.) Merr. 1937

pronounced: ty-MOH-nee-uss TY-mon

(Rubiaceae — the gardenia family)


common names: timon tree, tim tim

native 4

Timon is the name of the plant in Amboina (Ambon), on account of its black bark.

The Timon tree is a shrub or small tree that can grow to about 8 m, with a DBH of not more than 30 cm. It is native to northern Australia, New Guinea, and a few of the nearby islands, including Timor and the Solomon Islands. In Australia it is found on the coastal strip reaching from the Kimberleys in Western Australia right across the north of the continent and down the Queensland coast as far south as about Brisbane. It usually grows in open forest, but is also found in monsoon forest and on rainforest margins.

The bark is rather corky, and its colour is variable, depending on the frequency of fires. The corkiness gives the tree some protection from the forest fires.

The opposite leaves are quite large, up to about 12.5 cm by 5 cm, obovate to elliptic, with a blunt tip. Stipules are 1 – 4 cm long, tapering to a point at the apex, and densely clothed with long, prostrate, silky, pale brown hairs. Domatia are tufts of hairs, and may occur along the midrib, and also along the lateral veins. New growth is silky-hairy.

The little white 5-petaled flowers are borne on cymes at the ends of the branchlets. The corolla is sericeous on the outer surface, the tube about 1 cm long, and the lobes about 6 – 7 mm long with conspicuous longitudinal crenate glandular ridges. The anthers are sessile, and the stigmas numerous and conspicuous.

Small brown globular fruits, a little over 1 cm in diameter, are produced, the calyx persisting at the apex. The fruits contain many seeds, and these are thought to be spread by fruit bats. The fruits are said to be edible, and to be gathered in the wild by the local people.

Joseph Banks and his party saw Timonius timon near the Endeavour River.

The larvae of the Hercules Moth, Coscinocera hercules, with a wing-span of about 27 cm the largest Australian moth, use this tree as one of their food sources, as do also the larvae of the Emperor Moth Syntherata janetta.

Where the plant has been introduced into areas where it does not normally grow, it has been found to be invasive. It easily invades open disturbed sites, but, as time elapses, native species appear to overtop and replace it.

The light-coloured wood is close-grained, easily worked, and takes a good polish.

The aboriginal peoples use a decoction of the wood of the tree for sore eyes, and a decoction of the inner bark for fevers and colds. An infusion of the dried leaves is used as a contraceptive, and in the treatment of fevers. Fresh leaves are eaten raw or boiled until soft as a treatment for coughs, malaria, shortness of breath, whooping cough and nausea.

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 2011, West Point road 2014
Page last updated 12th July 2019