Syzygium paniculatum, commonly known as Magenta Lillypilly, is a broad dense bushy rainforest tree native to New South Wales. It belongs to Family Myrtaceae. It grows to a height of 15 m with trunk diameter up to 35 cm.

 

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A street tree in the suburb of Sydney. The height is about 9 m.

 

The bark of the tree trunk is brown, flaky, soft and scaly, with fine fissures.

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The flaky bark of the tree trunk

Leaves are opposite in pairs, simple and slightly obovate (with an egg-shaped outline and a broad apex , tapering at the leaf base). 3–9 cm long, 1.5–3 cm wide. The leaves are dark glossy above, and paler below; lateral veins numerous, intramarginal vein usually discernible; petiole 5–10 mm long.

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Mature leaves are obovate whereas the young leaves are oblong.

During early summer white flowers are produced in clusters, grouped in small terminal or axillary panicles of a few flowers on short stalks. The arrangement is known as paniculate inflorescence.

Calyx : 4 free small sepals in green colour.

Corolla : 4 free small and round  petals in white colour, about 4 – 5 mm.

Androecium : numerous long protruding stamens in white colour, about 8 – 15 mm long.

Gynoecium : The position of the ovary is below that of the calyx, corolla and stamen. This is known as epigynous flower.

 

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The flower with a long style, numerous stamens and 4 small, round white petals
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Another image of the flower showing the long style, numerous stamens and small white, round petals. Two small flower buds are also shown.
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The underside of the flower showing the 4 free,   white round petals and the 4 free green sepals.
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The stamens of the flower
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The style of the flower. The top part is the stigma.

 

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The ovary has been transversely cut open to show the ovules inside.
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The sagittal image of a flower. The ovary is situated below the calyx and corolla. The ovary is inferior. (Only the lower part of each stamen is visible in this image.)

 

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A labelled diagram of the above image.

 

After fertilisation, the stamen and petals fall off from the flower. The fertilized ovules slowly develop into embryos. The ovary also grows and develops.

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A longitudinal section of a young fruit showing the developing embryos inside.
A labelled diagram of the above image.
A labelled diagram of the above image.

 

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The petals and stamens have fallen off and the ovary develops into a young fruit.

 

The fruit continues to grow and enlarge. The colour changes from green to magenta. The mature fruit is globose to ovoid in shape, 15–25 mm diameter. The fruit is edible, crisp and slightly acidic pulp. Ripe in autumn and winter.

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The development of the young small green fruit into a mature and big fruit of magenta colour.

 

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The mature fruit still attaches to the tree. (The colour of the fruit has been distorted, the original fruits are magenta in colour.)

 

There is only one seed in each fruit. The seed is polyembryonic (a few embryos inside). The cotyledons are smooth.

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The fruit has been cut sagittally to show the seed inside and the thickness of the edible fruit wall.
A labelled diagram of the above image.
A labelled diagram of the above image.
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A close-up image of the seed cut open to show the embryos inside.

 

In late summer (February in Sydney), the fruits mature, detach from the branchlets and fall onto the ground. Footpaths near the trees are covered with crushed fruits and seeds. This makes the footpath colourful and is quite a special scene, some may say chaotic.

Crushed fruits and seeds scattered along the footpath under the trees make the footpath colourful.
Crushed fruits and seeds scattered along the footpath under the trees make the footpath colourful, but slippery.
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The above photo in detail.

It is commonly cultivated in eastern Australia and elsewhere. Well known as an edible wild fruit with a pleasantly sour apple-like flavour. It is eaten fresh or cooked into jam.

It was probably the first fruit sampled by Cook’s party in 1770. Banks’ journal records: They (Cook and Solander) also found several trees of Jambosa kind, much in colour and shape resembling cherries; of these they eat plentifully and brought home also abundance, which we eat with much pleasure though they had little to recommend them but a light acid.’ (from Les Robinson ( 1991) Field Guide to the Native Plants of Sydney)

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank sincerely Mr Andrew Orme of The Royal Botanic Gardens for his advice and guidance.

 

Bibliography

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syzygium_paniculatum

http://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Syzygium~paniculatum

Robinson, Les ( 1991) Field Guide to the Native Plants of Sydney. Kangaroo Press. ISBN 0-86417-639-2

 

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