The other rainforest fruit in our garden is the dear little tree that keeps on giving – no thorns here. To go with its sweet nature it has a sweet name – lilly pilly. Ours is a Syzygium australe. The commercial name was Brush Cherry but these names can vary.
Lilly pilly’s have a wide natural range from the rainforests of far North Queensland to the temperate rainforests of the southern states. Our lilly pilly occupies a shaded spot in the garden where nothing else we’ve planted over the years has survived.
It was planted as small sapling only a year ago and has grown,
From this ….. to this.
It’s gifts are many and varied from leaves – glossy with red-tinged new growth,
the light green buds,
delicate white flowers,
And of course the edible fruit which change from delicate pink to dark crimson.
I have eaten the fruit at both stages, the darker fruit has a sweeter flavour. Other sites describe the fruit as a cranberry-like, but to me, they are much more like a tart light-textured (imagine lighter than a nashi pear) apple with a hint of rose flavour. I pick and wash them and eat them as is. Samantha Martin, known as the Bush Tukka Woman, says: ‘Lilly pilly berries are a perfect addition to any smoothie or fruit salad. They are also fantastic in jams, chutneys, ice-creams, savoury and sweet sauces, and can be baked into muffins for a sweet, healthy treat.” http://www.onyamagazine.com/lifestyle/food-drink/foodstuffs/move-aside-acai-berries/
Some of the lilly pilly fruits have largish seeds but others have a seed no bigger than a grape seed (which I just swallow)
Here in the Illawarra our lilly pilly starting fruiting in March and is still bearing edible fruit in late May.
This can’t be the perfect tree? There must be a catch. Well there is. Many lilly pilly varieties are affected by psyllids (Trioza eugenia). These are tiny cicada-like creatures that lay their eggs on the leaves. The nymphs embed themselves in the leaf making a pit which shows as a lump or pimple on top of the leaf.
My lilly pilly is psyllid-affected, but not badly. The nursery recommended removing affected leaves and keeping the plant healthy. We have subsequently installed a watering system and fed with Seasol. Some sites recommend the pesticide Confidor – but I would definitely steer clear. The neonicotinoid chemicals within Confidor have been implicated in decimating bee populations. http://www.see-change.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/PROTECTING-BEES-flyer.pdf
Besides, I prefer to keep a thriving ecosystem in my plants. This is just a few creatures I found on the lilly pilly in the space of half-an-hour – potentially some of them feed on the psyllids.
A mantis and a small spider (bronze jumping spider – Helpis minitabunda??)
A green planthopper (a sap-sucking insect) with nymph (I didn’t even notice the yellow-striped nymph when I took photo). Black beetle – I’m hoping these eat the psyllids
You can purchase lilly pilly varieties that are resistant to psyllids including Acmena smithii and Syzgium luehmannii.
I am not the only one who loves their lilly pilly. It is a favourite in Australian gardens for hedges, topiary and feature trees. But maybe it should be appreciated a little more for its bush food bounty.
The bored-doodle certainly does. She became goat-like when the lilly pilly came into fruit.