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Weeping emubush

Eremophila longifolia (R.Br.) DC.

Horst Weber


(Greek) = solitude; desert
(Greek) = love; love of ...


(Latin) = with long leaves

So this plant is the
desert- and solitude-loving plant with long leaves

The plant which loves the desert and its solitude

Growing in the desert, the Weeping emubush most certainly loves lonely places, although it hardly ever is completely on its own and often can be found in what could be called a "family-retreat". It is not unusal for the plant to grow in small clusters where one taller parent-tree is surrounded by a number of juvenile trees which have grown either from seed or from root suckers.

Eremophila longifolia, at Arkaroola, northern Flinders Ranges. This plant is at the start of the Surveyor's Cairn Walk. Select the thumbnail image or plant name for a higher resolution image (40k).
Photo: H.Weber.

Frequent visitors to this "family gathering" are feeding emus and you are also very likely to see a number of birds busily hopping through the branches in search of food. Honeyeaters and the Australian bustard are known to feed on Eremophila longifolia. As part of a varied diet the plant is also a good fodder plant for cattle and sheep, however, if these animals are fed exclusively on E. longifolia, they are likely to poison themselves.

Other common names are Emu apple, Dogwood, Juniper tree, Long-leaved eremophila, Berrigan (used in QLD, NSW, NT), Berrigan emubush and Native plum tree. Berrigan, unfortunately, is also used as a name for Pittosporum phylliraeoides (Native apricot) and Eremophila alternifolia (Narrow leaved fuchsia bush) while Native plum is used in S.A. for one of the Sandalwoods, Santalum lanceolatum.

Flower of the Weeping emubush. Select the thumbnail image or highlighted word for a higher resolution image (24k).
Photo: H.Weber.

In terms of soil and climate, the plant is not particularly choosy. It grows on different types of soil, survives in areas with high temperatures and copes well with variable and unpredictable rainfall patterns.

This climatic flexibility allows the plant to spread over a huge geographical area, the extreme points of which are given as longitudes 114°-151° E and latitudes 16°-37° S. This means the plant grows as far west as Perth, as far east as the Darling Downs, as far north as Daly Waters and as far south as the Riverina region.


Flowers from front. Select the thumbnail image or highlighted word for a higher resolution image (24k).
Photo: H.Weber.

Scientific experiments have established that the plant will always produce some flowers, regardless of factors like season, current season's rainfall, etc. However, for flowers to turn into fruit, the current season's rainfall is a vitally important element. Without enough rain, flowers will not turn into fruit. Whether a plant is in full bloom or carrying just a few flowers, do not drive past it too quickly: The pale colouring makes the flowers quite inconspicuous.

As with other Eremophila, this species has a number of medicinal properties. To my knowledge, not much is known about medicinal plant use of the Adnyamathanha people, the native people of the northern Flinders Ranges but it has been well documented that Aborigines in other areas like the N.T. did put the plant to a number of good uses.

  • For pains in joints and muscles a liniment (medical fluid) was prepared by mixing crushed leaves with animal fat. This mixture was then rubbed into the body. It warmed the body without causing skin burn.
  • For a number of complaints a wash was prepared by boiling dried and crushed leaves in a billycanful of water. After straining a dark green water remained which was applied as a wash once a day.
  • In order to draw boils a poultice was prepared from crushed leaves and a very small amount of water.
  • Inhaling the fumes of burning wood, prepared in a particular way, was thought to strenghten a new-born baby, as well as stop the mother's bleeding after the birth.

Branch with leaves and flower. Select the thumbnail image or highlighted word for a higher resolution image (29k).
Photo: H.Weber.

While the plant was not all that useful in cooking &endash; only the leaves were used for flavouring, for instance emu fat &endash; it was highly regarded in sacred and mystical terms, at least in Central Australia. Leaves and twigs were used as decorations in ceremonies such as circumcision rites or to brush sacred objects. Branches were also used to shroud bodies and to mark graves. Water from sacred waterholes could only be fetched if branches of the plant were carried upon approaching the waterhole and then put on the ground near the water (Northern Aranda people in Central Australia). And lastly, celebrating the return from a successful war-outing, men would be decorated with leaves from E. longifolia.

Fruit. Select the thumbnail image or highlighted word for a higher resolution image (42k).
Photo: H.Weber.



Shrubs to 3 m or trees 7-8 m; branches and folige drooping; mature bark dark-grey, its surface rough and divided into squarish segments (see photo below)


Growing Pattern





3-20 cm long, 4-7 mm wide


Linear to lanceolate, at base narrowed into a short stalk, tip has a hooked or bent point; margins without indentations


Young leaves downy, mature leaves becoming smooth; distribution of hairs on surface is not always even



Most of the year

Growing pattern

On short stalks in leaf axils; singly or in groups of 2-3 sometimes up to 5


Pinkish to reddish brown, usually spotted inside


25-30 mm long; short stalk of 4-10.5 mm length


Soft down or matted, wolly hair



Blakish purple when ripe (the fruit in the picture above was knocked off by strong winds before ripening)


5-12 mm long


Fleshy drupe, more or less globular



Bark of a mature tree. Select the thumbnail image or highlighted word for a higher resolution image (58k).
Photo: H.Weber.

They said about solitude:

Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a God.
Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

Alone, even doing nothing, you do not waste your time.
You do, almost always, in company.
E. M. Cioran (b. 1911)

In the tumult of men and events, solitude was my temptation; now it is my friend. What other satisfaction can be sought once you have confronted History?
Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970)

If you are idle, be not solitary; if you are solitary, be not idle.
Samuel Johnson (1709-84)

The strong man is strongest when alone.
Friedrich Von Schiller (1759-1805)

One can acquire everything in solitude except character.
Stendhal (1783-1842)


  1. Aboriginal Community of the N.T., 1988, Traditional Bush Medicines
  2. Cunningham, G.M. et al, 1981, Plants of Western New South Wales
  3. Ford & Paton (Ed's), 1986, The Dynamic Partnership - Birds and Plants in Southern Australia
  4. Friedel, M.H.., et al, 1993, "What induces Central Australian Arid Zone Trees and Shrubs to Flower and Fruit?" in: in Aust. J. Bot., 41,
  5. Hall, N, et al, 1972, The use of trees and shrubs in the dry country of Australia
  6. Edmunds, L., et al, 1987, Flora List - Arkaroola Mt. Painter Sanctuary, Northern Flinders Ranges
  7. Jessop, J.P., 1986, Flora of South Australia
  8. Microsoft, 1994, Bookshelf '94
  9. Mueller, F., 1886, Description of the Myoporinous Plants of Australia
  10. Richmond, G.S., 1993, "A review of the use of Eremophila (Myoporaceae) by Australian Aborigines" in: J. Adelaide Bot. Gard.15(2)
  11. Smith, N.N., 1991, "Ethnobotanical field notes from the Northern Territory" in: J.Adelaide Bot.Gard.14(1)

Horst Weber is a teacher and IT-manager at the German Cultural Institute, or "Goethe-Institut", Dublin. In 1987, on his first visit to Australia, he fell in love with the private nature sanctuary, Arkaroola-Mt-Painter in South-Australia where he became interested in botany.
He is a member of "The Friends of the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden, Port Augusta". During 1999 he will develop a Website for the Botanic Garden.
Horst gratefully acknowledges sponsorship by Arkaroola Pty. Ltd,
Australian Geographic Society, Flair Travel (Dublin) and Singapore Airlines

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Australian Plants online - September 1999
The Society for Growing Australian Plants