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Elusive Aussie Actually an Asset

This article was first published on 24 Nov 2020.

Elaeocarpus reticulatus

Elaeocarpus reticulatus

Photo by the Otago Daily Times

This evergreen tree with its dark glossy foliage can appear to disappear in most landscapes. It is not until you look closer that its attributes abound.

Commonly known as the blueberry ash or blue olive berry, its showy flowers and long lasting brilliant blue fruit make it an attractive addition to the garden.

A small to medium sized tree, E. reticulatus can grow to 15 metres with a spread of 3 to 5 metres. Bell-shaped flowers appear profusely in late spring and summer. Borne in racemes up to 10cm long, the fringed flowers are normally white but can range in shades of pink. After flowering the dark shiny blue fruit appear, persisting for up to 12months.

E. reticulatus naturally occurs in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. In these regions it grows in quite diverse habitats including dry rainforest and coastal scrubs.

As it is an adaptable plant it is well suited to the garden environment, tolerant of many different soil types, sun to full shade and coastal exposure. As a young plant it needs protection from hard frosts but becomes hardier with age.

About 30 to 40 species of Elaeocarpus grow in Australia and in New Zealand, two endemic species. Propagation is normally from cuttings as seed of E. reticulatus can be very difficult to germinate.

A white and pink form of Elaeocarpus reticulatus is growing in the Australian borders of Dunedin Botanic Garden’s Geographic Plant Collection.