Erythroxylum australe (plant)
A member of the Erythroxylaceae family, Erythroxylum 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. Native Erythroxylum species are illegal in some states, notably NSW.
The leaves of Erythroxylum 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 species. The roots of Erythroxylum australe contain Dihydroxytropacocaine and Methylecgonidine which are likely to be active.
Care and Cultivation of Erythroxylum australe
Propagation of Erythroxylum australe is by seed, cuttings appear to be very hard or impossible to strike. The ripe red or orange fruit contain one seed and tastes sweet, being sought after by birds. The seed is removed from the flesh and planted immediately (the seed should only be viable for a couple of months, cold storage may increase viability). Plant 1cm deep in a rich moist potting mix. Germination should occur within 21 days. Once they are big enough, they can be potted up separately or planted out.
Erythroxylum australe are very drought tolerant and they make a handsome addition to the waterwise garden. Well drained soil in full sun or part shade. They can be pruned, fertilised and watered to maintain an attractive habit. 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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