The Bumpy Satinash

Skyrail Nature Diary: July 2008

Some plants flower and fruit every year. Their activity is cyclical and can be tied to season and weather. The Bumpy Satinash (Syzygium cormiflorum) is no such plant.

This interesting rainforest species is botanically unusual in both its flowering patterns and positioning.

The Bumpy Satinash flowers and fruits infrequently (every two to five years); when they do appear, the flowers and fruits grow directly from the trunk and branches, giving the plant its 'bumpy' appearance.

This unusual tree is both "ramiflorous", with flowers and fruits on its branches, and "cauliflorous" where the flowers and fruits appear directly on its trunk.

Typically, the Bumpy Satinash grows to about 30 metres in height and is easily recognisable thanks to its large leaves and 'bumpy' trunk and/or branches.

Bumpy Satinash flowers are white, fluffy and full of sweet nectar. During the day, these delicate blossoms attract an array of birds including parrots, honey-eaters and lorikeets. At night, the flowers attract a different type of visitor, including the Common Striped Possum, the Long-tailed Pygmy Possum and the Herbert River Ringtail Possum.

The nectar is also an important food for the Queensland Blossom Bat (Macroglossus minimus), a tiny rainforest bat which is smaller than a mouse and weighs just 15 grams. The Blossom Bat has a long, pointed nose and a thin tongue, which is perfect for licking nectar from the flowers.

After flowering, the Bumpy Satinash produces white or pale pink coloured fruits, which are about the size of a golf ball and the shape of an apple, giving the tree its alternate name: "White Apple".

The fleshy fruits are edible and crunchy, with a floury texture similar to an apple, but are quite tart to taste. The rainforest Aborigines would chew on the fruits of the Bumpy Satinash to relieve their thirst on long walks.

The fruits are also a popular food source for the Southern Cassowary. The Cassowary typically eats the fallen fruits from the ground; however, if the fruits grow far enough down the trunk, the Cassowary can either eat them straight from tree, or use its strong legs to kick the fruits down.