by Jan Sked
This year the Eupomatia laurina fruited particularly well in my garden. All the branches were laden with fruit, which gave me the opportunity to make some Native Guava Jelly.
Eupomatia laurina is known by a number of common names - Native Guava, because of the flavour and composition of the fruit - Copper Laurel, because the leaves are shaped like the leaves of a laurel and they turn a coppery colour in winter - Bolwarra, which is the aboriginal name for the plant.
It is a large spreading shrub, often multi-trunked, with glossy, dark green leaves, 6-12 cm long, on slender zig-zag arching branches. Foliage takes on red-bronze tones in the cooler weather of winter and spring. It grows to about 3 to 5 metres in height.
In spring and summer the cream, daisy-like flowers, 2.5 cm in diameter, appear in the leaf axils all along the stems. They have a distinctive ether-like perfume and each flower only lasts one day. These flowers have an unusual structure. The flower bud has a cap like a eucalyptus. There are two or three rings of many stamens and several rings of petal-like staminodes surrounding a central disc containing numerous stigmas. These flowers are pollinated by small brown weevils which are attracted by the peculiar ether-like perfume. They feed voraciously on the densely packed staminodes and in so doing transfer the pollen to the stigmas.
The fruit is green and urn-shaped, 2-3 cm in diameter, and the sweet creamy pulp is edible, but full of seeds, rather like a guava. Fruits ripen in winter and are ready to eat when they are soft to squeeze. They can be used in jams and jellies, and are quite good to eat raw, although the seeds are a bit of a nuisance. Fruit-eating wildlife love them.
This is an understorey plant, common in coastal rainforests from north Queensland to Victoria, also in Papua New Guinea. It is generally found on the margins of the rainforest and extending into the adjoining moist eucalypt forests.
It makes a suitable garden plant and will grow in sun or shade in most soils. Benefits from mulching and additional watering in dry periods. It is also successful as a container plant.