The Tree Broom-Heath is November's plant of the month.
The Monotoca elliptica is wonderful plant that comes into its own at this time of year in the small areas of remnant Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub around Centennial Parklands. It is a significant component of this endangered Sydney ecotype and grows into a small tree.
It has immense habitat value, with its thick foliage and spikey leaves providing a refuge for small birds like wrens and honeyeaters. These birds are becoming scarce in the parklands and suburbs, as garden fashions move away from dense plantings and into more formal, styles with standard trees and strappy leafed plants.
The abundant greenish-white flowers in early spring are a food source for nectivorous birds and other pollinator species, particularly tiny native bees, flies and gnats. Our native pollinators such as insects, birds and mammals require flowering plants year-round. A diversity of different pollinators ensure that our native plants receive this essential ecological service. As an added treat, at this time of year the plant provides abundant, tiny but sweet red to orange fruits. These are a huge hit with animals and the trees are usually thronged by lorikeets and other fructivores.
Monotoca elliptica is an unusually resilient species, surviving fires because of its thick bark and living over 100 years. We are lucky to have some fantastic old trees in the parklands, remnant from before the area was developed. We would love to propagate this species throughout the park using fruit from these trees, however it’s a very tricky customer, requiring a journey through the stomach of a bird, followed by a fire event to successfully germinate. Hopefully using techniques like fermentation in a moist, acidic humus mix, followed by watering with smoke water we might see some success in our park nursery. If learning the tricks of propagating native species appeals, join our nursery volunteers on alternate Tuesdays.
Monotoca elliptica is found on the coast and into the lower mountains throughout Victoria, NSW and southern Queensland, growing in heath, woodland and open forest.
This is a shrub or spreading tree from 2 to 10 m high, with thick dark brown to grey, furrowed bark. The leaves are small and oval to oblong, with parallel veins and a sharp spike. The flowers are greenish white, with tiny cups surrounded by petals and grow on crowded stems called racemes. The fruit are red to orange, tiny, fleshy, moist drupes with a large seed.
The wood was used by Aboriginal people for tool handles, a practice that was adopted after settlement. The fruits were eaten as a snack by coastal peoples, but due to their tiny size, wasn’t a staple or important food.
Where to see Tree Broom-Heath in Centennial Parklands
Growing on the hillside in Queens Park next to the remnant bushland.