Larsenaikia ochreata

native gardenia


Larsenaikia ochreata

(F.Muell.) Tirveng. 1993

pronounced: lar-sen-IK-ee-uh owe-kree-AH-tuh

(Rubiaceae — the gardenia family)

synonym— Gardenia ochreata

F.Muell. 1858

pronounced: gar-DEEN-ee-uh owe-kree-AH-tuh

synonym— Kailarsenia ochreata

(F.Muell.) Puttock 1989

pronounced: ky-LAH-sen-ee-uh owe-kree-AH-tuh

common name: native gardenia

native 4Larsenaikia is an anagram of Kailarsenia, which was named for Professor Kai Larsen (1926–2012) of Aarhus University. He was an eminent Danish botanist, and did a great deal of research into the flora of South-East Asia, especially Tailand, Malasia and Indo-China. The genus named Kailarsenia has about half a dozen species in tropical Asia, while Larsenaikia has only 3 species, all confined to Australia. Ochreata comes via the Greek word ωχρος (ochros), pale, wan, yellow (ochre) through the botanical Latin word ochreatus, ‘like ochre’.

This is a very common local species, distributed throughout Northern Queensland, found along creek banks, and in open forest, both on the coast and inland, often growing in drier areas. Although it grows in many places on Magnetic Island, both growing naturally and as planted specimens, it is one of the plants I am most frequently asked to identify by both locals and visitors, so little it is known.

This native shrub or small tree, that grows 2–5 m tall, has dark, hard bark.
The dense foliage consists of large soft dark green leaves, quite thin-textured, and broadly ovate in shape, about 8 - 12 cm long by 6 - 8 cm wide. They are hairy beneath, and have prominent veins. New growth is softly hairy on both surfaces. Domatia are often present as hair tufts. The plant is sometimes deciduous in the dry season.

The flowers, which occur any time from September to November, are 6 cm or so in diameter, fragrant, white or yellowy white, with 6 petals. They are borne in small terminal groups.The petals sometimes curl at the ends.

The calyx persists prominently in the firm green globular to obovoid pubescent fruits, about 3-3.5 cm in diameter.

This is a hardy plant, and well worth cultivating. It can be propagated either from seed or from cuttings.

In some years it flowers rather sparsely, but in others there is a glorious show. In the garden, it will need regular pruning to maintain a pleasing shape.

The fruit was eaten by the Aboriginal inhabitants of northern Australia, and by early settlers. Contrary to popular belief, early settlers in Australia ate local meat, seafood and plants because they tasted good, not just for survival. Prince Alfred was served kangaroo-tail soup and emu-egg omelette when he visited in 1867. Even Mrs Beeton got in on the act with a recipe for kangaroo in the 1907 edition of her famous cookery book.

The caterpillars of the Gardenia Bee Hawk Cephonodes kingii feed on the plant.


Photographed at West Point, and above Rocky Bay on the Hawkings Point headland, 2008, 2013, on the Forts walk, 2014, and from Gabul Way, 2016
Page last updated 26th January 2019