Erythroxylum australe (plant)
A member of the Erythroxylaceae family, E. australe is a shrub or small tree in dry rainforest north from the McPherson Range (NSW/QLD border). It also occurs in the Northern Territory. One or two sub-species possibly exist, one is Erythroxylum sp. ‘Splityard Creek’ which has wider leaves and veins which do not loop as much as E. australe. Erthroxylum ellipticum and Erythroxylum ecarinatum (rare and endangered) are other native Erthroxylum species which occur in North Queensland. Other as yet unnamed species are Erythroxylum sp. Brewer LA (B.Hyland 13373), Erythroxylum sp. Mosquito Point (J.R.Clarkson 9991) and Erythroxylum sp. Cholmondely Creek (J.R.Clarkson 9367).
Native Erythroxylum species are supposedly illegal in some states, notably NSW; what a ridiculous and stupid notion!
The leaves of E. australe contain Meteloidine, a tropane alkaloid also present in Datura metel. Chewing of the leaves is said to produce an unpleasant constriction of the throat, whilst smoking the leaves produces a pleasant (?) effect similar to but milder than Datura sp. The roots of E. australe contain Dihydroxytropacocaine and Methylecgonidine which are likely to be active in some way. The roots give off an unusual but somewhat pleasant smell when potting up plants.
Care and Cultivation of Erythroxylum australe
Erythroxylum australe is a tough little Australian shrub. In times of wet it looks luxuriant, but in times of drought it will shed the majority of its leaves and become dormant. These plants make a handsome addition to the garden and can be pruned, fertilised and watered regularly to maintain an attractive habit. Well drained soil in a full sun to part shade position. Some people are even making hedges out of them as they shape well and are a short shrub (1-2m). I am finding they make an excellent drought hardy bonsai that trains well.
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