Hymenosporum flavum

Distribution Map
Family: Pittosporaceae
Distribution: Queensland and New South Wales in rainforest and tall open forests. Also occurs in New Guinea.
Common Name: Native frangipani.
Derivation of
Name:
Hymenosporum...from Greek, hymen, a membrane and spora, a seed, referring to the winged seeds
flavum.... from Latin, flavus, yellow, referring to the typical flower colour.
Conservation
Status:
Not considered to be at risk in the wild.

General Description:

Hymenosporum flavum is the only member of the genus Hymenosporum (ie. it is a a monotypic genus). The genus is closely related to Pittosporum, which it resembles in certain respects. It is native to the coastal brush forests of eastern Australia from the Hunter River in New South Wales to Atherton in Queensland and extending to New Guinea.

Hymenosporum flavum
Hymenosporum flavum
Photo: Brian Walters

In tropical areas of its natural habitat some trees grow to 25 metres with a stem diameter of 30 cm or more, but further south it is much smaller. In cultivation it is usually only a small, very slender and upright tree up to 10 metres high. Bark is grey and roughish, and the branches are sparse, radiating in whorls from the main stem. The deep lustrous green leaves, which resemble those of Pittosporum, are alternately grouped at the ends of the twiggy branchlets, oval-oblong in shape, and 7-15 cm long.

This is a very fine flowering tree that begins to bloom in early spring, when the fragrant, open, tubular flowers are cream-coloured. They darken with age to a deep sulphur yellow before they drop. In some forms the flowers may have a reddish centre. The effect of masses of cream and yellow flowers is very lovely. The flowering period extends to early summer. The 4 cm diameter flowers in terminal corymbs are sweetly scented, and about the size and shape of those of the frangipani, from which the common name is derived. In other respects the tree bears no resemblance.

Fruit capsules are hard and brown, containing numerous closely packed layers of brown, papery seeds.

Hymenosporum flavum
 
Hymenosporum flavum
Some forms of Hymenosporum flavum have flowers with greater or lesser degrees of red at the centre
Photos: Peter Vaughan

Native frangipani is one of the most popular Australian plants in cultivation as it is a hardy plant, even growing satisfactorily in dry climates if supplementary water is available. It grows in most reasonably well drained soils but those with a high organic content are preferred. Because of its generally narrow habit of growth, the plant can be recommended for small gardens. Plants flower best in an open, sunny position but can be grown successfully in shady areas. Established plants will tolerate at least moderate frost.

Propagation is usually carried out from fresh seed which germinates readily but cuttings are also successful.


These notes are based on an article by Ivan Holliday in 'Australian Plants', journal of the
Australian Native Plants Society (Australia), June 1998.


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