Monday, December 19, 2005


This family of tropical and subtropical trees and shrubs is predominantly rainforest dwelling.
Worldwide there are some 12 or more genera and more than 350 species. The family name reflects that of one important genus, Elaeocarpus, whose name is derived from Greek words meaning 'olive-like fruit' - seemingly more appropriate for some ELAEOCARPACEAE genera than others.

Some of the family's characteristics -
Leaves alternate or opposite, with stipules; margins entire or toothed; occasionally domatia evident. Flowers bisexual; petals 4-5 or absent altogether, often fringed; stamens numerous.
Fruits capsular in some genera, drupaceous in others.

ELAEOCARPACEAE genera in Queensland
Aceratium 5 species, all found in N.E. Queensland.
Dubouzetia I species, a small cliff-dweller found near Townsville and classified 'vulnerable'.
Elaeocarpus 25 species (5 as yet unnamed), some Q'Id species also occurring in NT and NSW.
Peripentadenia 2 species, both from N.E. Queensland, both classified 'rare'.
Sloanea 4 species, 2 Q'Id species also found in NSW.

ELAEOCARPACEAE representatives in the Rockhamton/Capricom Coast area
Elaeocarpus eumundi - usually in gallery rainforest communities
Elaeocarpus grandis - usually in gallery rainforest communities
Elaeocarpus obovatus - usually in dry rainforest communities
Elaeocarpus reticulatus - recorded from the Shoalwater Bay area
Sloanea langii - in gallery rainforest, reaching its southern distribution limit at Byfield.

Elacocrpus and Sloanea uses
Elaeocarpus and Sloanea timber is generally light-weight, soft and pale-coloured and has been used internally for furniture, flooring, joinery, plywood and lining and for case-making.
The pitted stones of E. grandis have been gathered and used to make necklaces.
The kernels of some Elaeocarpus, e.g. E. bancroftii, have been used as food by both aborigines and early settlers.
The gum of S. australis is reported to have been used in New South Wales as a stiffener for straw hats.
E. reticulatus (blueberry ash) is often cultivated as an ornamental.

Various species of Elaeocarpus and/or Sloanea provide food for mammals, birds, butterfly larvae, moth larvae and other insects.
Leaf and/or foliage feeders include lemuroid, Daintree River and Herbert River ringtail possums; the larvae of the fiery jewel and bronze flat butterflies; the larvae of the moths Amphithera heteroleuca, Arignota stercorata, Echiomima mythica Parallelia constricta, Pennisetia igniflua, Pilostibes stigmatias while species of lace bug and gall-forming wasps are also associated with the foliage.

The Eungella honeyeater has been recorded feeding on the flowers and/or nectar and/or pollen.
Fruit and/or seed eaters include musky rat kangaroos, native rat species, eastern tube-nosed bats, spectacled and grey-headed flying-foxes; emus and southern cassowaries; banded, superb, rose-crowned and wompoo fruit-doves; pied imperial, topknot, whiteheaded and wonga pigeons; brown cuckoo and emerald doves; palm and sulphurcrested cockatoos; Australian king parrots, crimson and eastern rosellas; Lewin's honeyeaters, figbirds, green catbirds, tooth-billed and satin bowerbirds, noisy pittas and currawongs while the larvae of the bright cornelian butterfly bore into the seeds.

Joel Plumb

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