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Ochrosia elliptica Labill. 1824
pronounced: oh-KROH-zee-uh ee-LIP-tih-kuh
(Apocynaceae – the oleander family)
common names: Bloodhorn, Wedge Apple, Elliptic Yellow-wood, Red Berrywood
Ochrosia comes from the Greek οχρος (ochros), yellow, apparently with reference to the colour of the wood in some of the species. The word elliptica comes from ελλειψις (elleipsis), an ellipse.
The bloodhorn grows into a large shrub or a small spreading tree anything up to about 9 metres tall. When in full fruit and missing many of its leaves, it can look rather straggly. The specimen photographed is to be found in Picnic Street, Picnic Bay, not far from the junction with Magnetic Street. It occurs naturally to within a few metres of the sea, in foredune vine thickets and in mangrove and coastal scrub. It is found in northern and central coastal Queensland, in parts of Melanesia, and on Lord Howe Island, where it is quite a common plant on sandy soils near the coast. It has potential in beach regeneration projects.
The main flowering is from October to February, although odd flowers can appear at other times. They are small (less than 1 cm long), white (or sometimes pale yellow) and fragrant, and occur in the angles of upper leaves.
The chief glory of the plant is its fruit. They are a striking bright red, and grow in pairs of ellipsoidal drupes, each up to about 6 cm long and 3 cm in diameter, pointed at both ends, and with a longitudinal ridge on both sides. Unfortunately the fruits are poisonous, and the plants bleed white sap copiously when wounded. There is one advantage to their being poisonous – they are left alone by birds, fruit bats and possums, and stay on the tree for many weeks. Seeds are about 1 cm across, and winged.
Obviously the tree is salt-tolerant, and would make an attractive specimen plant for a coastal garden in a warm climate, although the fact that the attractive fruit is poisonous would have to be taken into account. It is said that quite a number of them were planted on the nature strips on street corners in various parts of Magnetic Island by Chrissie Saunders many years ago. There are some of these still to be found in the various bays.
The tree can be propagated either from seed or cuttings, but these are slow to become established, and the tree is slow growing.
Larvae of the moth Daphnis placida feed on the plant.
Photographs taken at Picnic Bay 2008-2014
Page last updated 29th January 2018