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Another Attention Grabber

Nada Sankowsky

Buckinghamia celsissima, ivory curl tree, is endemic to small areas of north-eastern Queensland rainforests.

Flowering profusely (as always) around the Tablelands (and other areas of Queensland) in February and March, this well-known rainforest plant was introduced into horticulture many years ago and has proved amenable to cultivation over quite a wide climatic range. It is now a very popular garden plant as well as enjoying a high profile as a subject for the beautification of community areas and streets.

Buckinghamia celsissima
Buckinghamia celsissima   

Buckinghamia celsissima grows in deep, red, well-drained volcanic soils and occurs from the Mt Finnigan area near Cooktown to the Paluma Range in north Queensland. It is common in the rainforests of the Atherton Tablelands where it grows to 30 metres - it has been used as a commercial timber tree. In a natural situation flowering occurs when the tree reaches the sunlight of the rainforest canopy.

This is the case with most rainforest trees and contrasts with the behaviour of such trees in cultivation. In an open garden situation Buckinghamia celsissima will rarely exceed 8 metres and flowering will occur within two years.

The foliage of this plant is glossy and leathery. The leaves have rippled edges and grow to 15 cm and are lobed in juvenile plants. The new growth shows various shades of pink and red.

Flower spikes to 22 cm are a tight mass of curled, creamy florets which hang on the tree in such abundance that the branches tend to weep, and the foliage is almost hidden. The masses of these fragrant blooms are attractive to bees. Flowering occurs from late summer through autumn (January - April).

Another Buckinghamia endemic to north-eastern Queensland is found in rainforest and gallery forest along Noah Creek, Roaring Meg Creek and at Mossman. This species is Buckinghamia ferruginiflora, and it is a lowland plant, whereas Buckinghamia celsissima occurs from coastal areas to high mountain tops. B.ferruginiflora flowers from June to November.

From the newsletter of the Tablelands Branch of the Society for Growing Australian Plants (Queensland) February 1996 (via the Queensland Region's newsletter, March 2005).

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