Scientific Name: Syzygium smithii
Common Names: Lilly-Pilly Tree
Plant Type: Evergreen large shrub or tree
Environment: Well adapted to Bay Area conditions, but thrives in full sun with deep, rich soil and ample water.
Bloom: The fluffy white blooms are insignificant compared to the pale lavender to purple fruit which persist on the branches throughout the late winter and spring.
Uses: The berries (known as "jambos" in SE Asia) can be eaten fresh or made into jellies or cordials. The fruit also attracts birds.
Syzygium smithii, the Lilly Pilly tree, its purple berries covering it from crown to foot, is a visual delight in the spring. The color of the berries is unlike any other fruit and the reason for planting it as an ornamental.
Native to Australia's wet eastern shores, the Lilly Pilly thrives in temperate rain forest conditions. It can grow to 100 feet and has lustrous evergreen leaves which have an aromatic scent, linking it to the Myrtle family.
As a timber tree its wood is bright red, very hard, and prized for flooring, turnery and moldings. Thomas Church used lilly pilly in many of his Bay Area gardens designed in the 1950s and later. He often specified that they be shaped to contain their height. SFBG has two trees in the Eastern Australia section. Where did it get its name? We don't know, but the "Australian Encyclopaedia" says that it is most likely taken from the Australian aboriginal language.
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS:
Photos by Joanne Taylor; text by Kathy McNeil; profile by Fred Bové