Plant of the Month — March 2009

Corymbia calophylla (Lindl.) K.D.Hill & L.A.S.Johnson — Marri

Find out more about Corymbia calophylla (Lindl.) K.D.Hill & L.A.S.Johnson

Corymbia calophylla is an iconic south-western Australian species blooming from December to May, with both pink and white flowering forms (see February 2005 Plant of the Month). It is a tall tree to 40(–60) m high with rough, tessellated bark that provides home to a myriad of insects. When in flower it is very popular with bees, both native and feral and Marri honey bears its local name. It grows in a wide variety of habitats and soils. A member of the Myrtaceae family, its range extends over the south-west of Western Australia, with two isolated populations in the north, one at Geraldton and one in the area of Mt. Lesueur. One of the bonuses of C. calophylla is its resistance to Phytophthora cinnamomi, the dreaded “dieback” disease that plagues so many of our most beautiful plants.

The large fruits or ‘honky nuts’ of this species were made famous by May Gibbs, author of the famous children’s classic, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie; the blossoms being the ‘gumnut babies’ of the story. Its common name of ‘Marri’ comes from the Aboriginal Nyoongar language of the south west, where it was known as a Medicine Tree because the red gum or ‘kino’ was sprinkled onto wounds to prevent bleeding or mixed with water as a mouthwash or disinfectant as the tannin has antiseptic qualities. Large quantities of the powdered gum were used to tan kangaroo skins.

The name of Corymbia comes from the Latin corymbus a cluster of flowers and calophylla is derived the Greek calos beautiful and phyllon leaf. Originally described by English botanist, John Lindley (1799-1865) as Eucalyptus calophylla, the species was transferred in 1995 to the new genus Corymbia by K.D. Hill and L.A.S. Johnson (1925-1997) from Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens.

Photo: T. Tapper

Find out more about Corymbia calophylla (Lindl.) K.D.Hill & L.A.S.Johnson

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