Eucryphia is a small genus of about 8 species, five of which occur in Australia in rainforests from Tasmania to Queensland. The best known species is E.lucida – mainly for the highly aromatic honey produced from its flowers. Other members of the genus occur in South America.
Eucryphia lucida occurs as a tall shrub or a medium sized tree in rainforests and sub-alpine shrubberies in most areas of Tasmania. It likes rich soils and tolerates a very high annual rainfall – 1500 to 2500 mm. It is one of the faster growing trees, forming dense thickets from seed fallen by roadsides where other trees have been removed. Generally between 2-10 metres in height, Leatherwood may be sometimes much higher in favourable positions. The opposite leaves are shortly stalked and 2-4 cm long, simple, elliptical-lanceolate, with the apex blunt and rounded. The leaf margins are entire, the upper surface dark and glossy, lower surface white. Young leaves and buds covered with a sticky, gummy substance. In late spring and summer, masses of large, white (occasionally pink) flowers, resembling small single roses, cover the trees, attracting innumerable insects. The flowers have a strong, sweet perfume, which is very noticeable on warm days.
The fruit is a capsule, leathery, opening into boat-shaped sections, valves tipped by the persistent styles. The winged seeds are numerous.
This species is well worth planting as a garden specimen, being quite easy to cultivate and makes a fine display in the summer months. The position they require is one shaded from the hot summer sun and winds with plentiful moisture and adequate drainage. When the tree reaches 1-2m in height, it can be pruned after each flowering season, either to keep it to a reasonable height or to form a compact, shapely shrub. In cooler wetter areas it would make a fine street-planting tree, provided it was given some protection from damage in the early stages of growth.
One or two pink-flowered cultivars are in cultivation eg. Eucryphia lucida ‘Pink Cloud’.
E.lucida is easily propagated from seed or cuttings, however, seeds give much quicker results. The seed ripens in the capsules during February to April and falls very soon after. The best medium for propagation is one with good moisture holding properties but with adequate drainage.
Photo: J and R Coughlin
Eucryphia lucida ‘Pink Cloud’
Photo: Kris Schaffer