Jelly Palm at Brisbane Botanical Gardens.

During the 1992 Brisbane EKKA, Ally Wooller and I took time off from the show to visit the old Botanical Gardens situated alongside the Brisbane River. We had been told that a Mammea americana had been planted in that garden. A member of the public believed that a large-sized plant was growing there. Unfortunately it was proved not to be true.

However, we did find some interesting fruiting plants there. I contacted the Brisbane City Council who informed me that most of the plant species I was interested in had been planted by the first superintendent, Walter Hill in 1859 - 1870s. This makes them approximately 130 years old. The exact dates are not available because the records were washed away in the 1897 floods, as well as the curator's house. The heights of the trees and the size of their trunks indicate that some of these trees are quite old.

Wandering around we found a number of Jelly palms (Butia capitata) with old flowering spikes, growing to 30 feet in height. [Photo: left] Also there was a forty-foot-high specimen of the Date palm (Phoenix dactylifera).

A large multi-stemmed Tamarind, about forty-foot tall with a forty-six-foot spread was starting to fruit for the season.

An old lychee tree about 35 feet tall with a forty-six-foot spread had a bit of dieback and erinose mite, but was starting to flower. I'm told that a lot of lychee trees growing in Brisbane backyards were marcotted from this tree.

A Jakfruit tree with rather a roundish leaf had between 50 to 100 fruits on it. It appeared to grow only small round-type fruit. It was 25-30 feet tall with a 24-foot spread. There was also a Sapodilla which had been struggling. It was 6 foot tall with a 12-foot spread with quite a few branches chopped off. It had about 20 small developing fruit on it.

The most interesting find was a Kei Apple (Dovalyis caffra) which appeared to be quite old. It was starting to flower in August. It was 15 feet tall with a 30-foot spread. The Kei Apple is related to the Governor's Plum and is in the Flacourtiaceae family. It is a small thorny tree or large shrub and is native to South Africa. It makes an excellent hedge. The plant has male and female flowering trees. The flowers consist of yellow stamens - no petals. The fruit is nearly round like an apple, about one-inch in diameter and bright golden yellow. It has a thin skin and yellow melting flesh, with about 5 to 15 flat pointed seeds in it. The flavour is aromatic and acid unless fully ripe. It is used to make jam and preserves. In its unripe state, it is used as a pickle. It is a drought resistant plant and grows very well in a subtropical climate.

In 1993, we decided to explore the Mt Coot-tha Botanical Gardens. The climate is classed as subtropical. It has maximum temperatures of 39-40°C and minimum of 4-5°C.

The Mt Coot-tha Botanical Gardens have a special fruit section which contains plants like citrus and stone fruits as well as grapes and:

Burdekin PlumTropical ApplePomegranate
Monstera CoffeeRoss Youngham Canistel
GrumichamaSapodillaGuava, yellow and cherry
CarissaCarobWhite Sapote
OlivesMangoAust Finger Lime
Curry LeafMulberriesKwai Muk (Artocarpus)
CoconutSea GrapeElephant Apple (Dillenia indica)
Kaffir PlumRose AppleStar Gooseberry
Black SapoteSoursopBrazilian Cherry
IlamaWater CherryStar Apple
MulberryRolliniaGolden Tree Tomato
HorseradishHoney Berry 

But up on the hill towards the new lookout are quite a few interesting fruit trees. We had to wander around to find them as they are not confined to one area.

A Santol about 6 feet high had burnt leaves, possibly from cold winds. There is another small Santol plant in the glasshouse.

The Candle nut (Aleurites moluccana) was growing very well, with half-developed nuts on the tree.

In the middle of a rainforest setting, a Cocoa (Theobroma cacao) was growing quite well. This plant from tropical America is used in the making of cocoa for chocolate. Another small plant is in the glasshouse.

Cocoplum (Chrysobalanus icaco) is doing very well. It bears round, purplish-red plum-like fruits. The fairly large seed is surrounded by a cotton-wooly type flesh, that is white and sweet. It is supposed to be made into a jam, but I had some trouble removing skin and seed. I am told, but haven't tried it, that the seed is a delicious nut.

Uvalha (Eugenia uvalha) was an interesting find. It is native to Brazil. The fruits are round, one inch in diameter, yellow/orange in colour and crowned at the apex with the remnants of the calyx. The skin is thin, flesh is soft and juicy. It has an acid flavor so it is used in drinks. Researching the Uvalha, I discovered that one book describes the fruit as "soft, watery, slightly sweet with an odour resembling onions. Few people like the fruit".

As I was unable to taste the fruit, I cannot confirm this observation, but I look forward to doing so, one day.

Myrciaria glomerata, a relative to the Jaboticaba is a small shrub with drooping branches and light green, tomentose leaves. The fruit is yellow, borne on the leaf axils on the young twigs. The fruit has 1-2 large seeds a thin sweet pulp with good flavour. I have not tasted this fruit yet. It was flowering in August.

Mimusops coriacea, a shrub from Brazil has oval almost leathery leaves, clustered densely along the branches. The fruit hang like Christmas decorations on the tree. There was plenty on the trees. They are bright yellow, round fruit with a mealy-type flesh like a canistel and 1-4 brown seeds.

Cuajilote (Parmentera edulis) is a native to Mexico. The fruit is yellowish-green to pinkish-brown with a grooved and angular surface.

The fruits taste like slightly bitter sugar cane, with fibre. They are generally used boiled or roasted or made into pickles and preserves. A few fruits were hanging on the tree.

In the glasshouse was a santol and a pili nut. The pili is an excellent nut when roasted. The pod is used as a flavouring. Also found was a Garcinia tinctoria (Gamboge tree) which is a tall tree from India which has peach-shaped frult. The pulp is yellow and melting. The flavour is supposed to be a cross between a good strawberry and a sour apple.

The Indian Mulberry (Morinda citrifolia) had a label saying "Edible fruits are an accompaniment to curries". All information I have found says it smells like rancid cheese, which makes it difficult to get past the nose. I found a fruit in Rocky's Botanical Garden later on, and found it very difficult to eat. The smell is atrocious, but it is reported to be edible. I didn't taste it, but a durian smells like heaven compared to this fruit.

We didn't have time to walk around the whole gardens but I look forward to doing so in the near future.

Ann Oram

DATE: May 1994

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