Drypetes deplanchei

yellow tulipwood


Drypetes deplanchei

(Brongn. & Gris.) Merr. 1951

pronounced: dry-PEE-teez dee-PLANCH-ee-eye

(Putranjivaceae — the putranjiva family)


common name: yellow tulipwood

native 4Drypetes is derived from the Greek δρυππα (dryppa), an over-ripe olive. The species was named for Dr Emile Deplanche (1824–1875) a French doctor and scientist, who collected this plant on New Caledonia.

This is a small to medium tree, 5–15 m high (but usually only up to 7 m), with a straight trunk, often flanged at the base, and a dense canopy. It occurs in Queensland, the Northern Territory, Western Australia, and north-eastern NSW, as well as on New Caledonia and Lord Howe Island, in coastal and tableland forests, monsoon forests, vine thickets and on stabilized dunes. The trees photographed are in Picnic Bay, in the foothills beyond Yule Street, and on Nobby Head.

The leaves are elliptic, ovate to oblong-ovate in shape, 4 – 9 cm long, 1 – 5 cm wide, wavy-edges, stiff and thick. The margins are sometimes toothed, especially in juvenile foliage, and sometimes without teeth, or with scalloped margins. They are abruptly tapered at the base, with a leaf tip or rounded at the end. In other words, their shape varies greatly! They are hairless and a glossy green in colour, and a somewhat paler green underneath. The juvenile leaves are often prominently toothed. The leaf veins are easily noticed, raised on both sides of the leaf. There are 5 – 7 lateral veins at about 65º to the midrib.

The species is dioecious. Yellowish green flowers, or sometimes yellow-brown, form in spring, from the forks of the leaves, individual flowers only 2–4 mm in diameter. The male flowers are in axillary racemes with a perianth around 2 mm long, with 5–10 stamens. The female flowers are either solitary, or in clusters of 3 or 5.

The fruit is a bright red drupe, 1–2 cm long, with moist yellow flesh inside. The fruit is usually mature from February to April. Fruits are eaten by the Emerald Dove, the Topknot Pigeon and the Wompoo Fruit Dove. Each fruit contains a single seed with a hard shell. Germination from seed is slow. As with all species of this genus, the foliage contains mustard oils as a chemical defence against herbivores.

In pioneering days, the timber of this tree was used to make handles for bullock-whips, especially in the Richmond River district of NSW.

Indigenous Australians ate the fruit raw, and used the leaves in cooking, as well as carving the wood – it is an excellent wood for that purpose.

Yellow tulipwood is a food plant for the caterpillars of:
       • the moth Lophopepla triselena,
       • the Grey Albatross Appias melania,
       • the Common Albatross Appias paulina and
        • Granny's Cloak Moth Speiredonia spectans;
and it is thought that it may also be a food source for the critically endangered Lord Howe Island Stick Insect.

This is an attractive tree, well-suited for planting in gardens. It does need shelter while young. It is useful as a shade tree, or as part of a rainforest garden.

Photographs taken at Picnic Bay 2010-2012
Page last updated 16th December 2018