A Rainforest Delicacy: The Davidson’s Plum

Skyrail Nature Diary: June 2008

On show in Australia’s Tropical Rainforest at the moment is the Davidson’s Plum (Davidsonia pruriens). Its stunning purple fruits create an eye-catching display, as well as providing a delicious and nutritious treat for many rainforest residents.

The Davidson’s Plum, named after one of the region’s pioneer sugar cane farmers, is one of the more well-known rainforest species of Tropical North Queensland. Growing up to 18 metres high under the rainforest canopy, or four to five metres in the open, it is a distinctive tree with small pink flowers and furry, pink new leaf growth.

The most distinctive part of the Davidson’s Plum is its striking dark purple fruits. Measuring around 5mm in diameter, the fruits usually appear from June through to September and hang in clusters directly on the trunk of the tree.

Each fruit contains two flat seeds encased in a bright-red flesh, which is quite sour to taste. The dark purple skin of the fruit is usually covered in fine rust-coloured hairs, which can make you itch and must be removed before consumption.

The fruits are a popular food source for many iconic rainforest animals, including the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua galerita) and the Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius).

They are also an important part of the modern Australian bush food industry. Davidson’s Plum fruits are used to add colour and flavour to many dishes in restaurants, and are prized for making delicious jams, chutneys, sauces and even wines! They are also used as flavouring in some locally produced yoghurts.

The Davidson’s Plum fruits are healthy too: a recent study has shown that they are extremely high in antioxidants - even higher than blueberries!

It is no wonder then that these fruits were also a traditional "bush tucker" for the rainforest aborigines, who would eat them raw despite their sour flavour.

The Davidson’s Plum can be found growing throughout the lowland rainforests of Tropical North Queensland, as well as in many backyard gardens.

This tropical rainforest species is also closely related to the endangered southern species of Davidson’s Plum (Davidsonia jerseyana), which is native to the subtropical rainforests of northern New South Wales.

Pictures are courtesy of the Wet Tropics Management Authority