Alloxylon pinnatum

Waratah Oak / Dorrigo Waratah

Family: Proteaceae

A tree growing to 25 metres tall, spreading to 10 or so metres wide – often much smaller in cultivation. 

It is native to northern NSW and Queensland; growing from 2 different spots in NSW; west of Coffs Harbour – centred around Dorrigo, as far south as near Bowraville and north-west into Mt Hyland Nature Reserve. It then occurs, with disjunction, from Murwillumbah and directly west in very few locations, then commonly north – on the border with Queensland. In Queensland, it occurs to Springbrook and west of. 

It is found in warm-temperate rainforest and wet sclerophyll forest, above 700 m AHD m usually on enriched volcanic soils. 

Alloxylon spp. have leaves that are generally considered simple but with juvenile leaves lobed or divided to such an extent as to appear compound, arranged alternately. In this species, most leaves are pinnatisect to pinnate to 40 cm long and 20 cm wide; with up to 11 lobes (leaflets) containing a midvein – angled at about 45° off the main vein; mid to dark green; adult leaves are entire – generally oblanceolate to elongated-elliptic, to 15 cm long and 3 cm wide, tapering at both ends.

Alloxylon spp. have inflorescences referred to as “conflorescences” which are actually made up of clustered racemes (or false racemes) of paired flowers, fused together. Unlike Waratahs (Telopea spp.), the flowers are not surrounded by an involucre (overlapping whorls) of enlarged leafy-bracts. Each flower is a typical Proteaceae flower with a perianth of 4 tepals, 4 anthers and 1 carpel. In this species, the flowers, including the pedicels are up to 10 cm long and with a tubular shape; occurring in terminal and axillary clusters of up to 150 flowers with the clusters to about 10 cm in diameter; bright-red-pink in colour, appearing mainly in spring.

The fruit of Alloxylon is a follicle. In this species, they are up to 9 cm long – generally boat-shaped and splitting down one side; seeds have a wing, to 3 cm long. 

In the garden

This has been a very popular plant in the garden and can be grown as far south as at least Canberra. It does well in the National Botanic Gardens here. It does very well as a feature plant in a park or large garden and there are some very nice specimens in Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney.  

It grows naturally on enriched soils so it likes a well-composted soil with enrichment and reliable drainage. Best planted on a slight slope and with some protection from full and hot sun. 

Very useful for a feature tree and specimen planting. 

It is tolerant of moderate frost. It can handle dry conditions but will flower better with supplementary watering. 

Prune after flowering to encourage a more dense and bushy habit with more flowers produced.

This can be a very spectacular plant if managed properly on a suitable site.


Best method is to use cuttings of hardened new growth. Seed can work well but is often hard to obtain. 

Other information

Fire response is unknown but it likely grows in fire-prone areas. Likely regenerates from seed and from possibly reshooting stems. 

Alloxylon is a genus of 4 species of trees. Two species are endemic to Queensland; one occurs in northern NSW-Queensland and the other is in New Guinea. 

Alloxylonfrom Greek allos (ἄλλος) meaning “other” or “different” and –xylon (ξύλο) – meaning “wood” – referring to the unique or unusual wood of the genus – which resembles oak but is very different from other Proteaceae members. 

pinnatum Latin – meaning “pinnate” – referring to a compound leaf when it is divided along one plane into segments (leaflets).

This species not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild. 

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Alloxylon pinnatum profile page    https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Alloxylon~pinnatum  

Australian National Herbarium – Alloxylon pinnatum profile page      https://www.anbg.gov.au/gnp/interns-2005/alloxylon-pinnatum.html 

Gardening with Angus – Alloxylon pinnatum profile page      https://gardeningwithangus.com.au/alloxylon-pinnatum-dorrigo-waratah/  

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.

By Dan Clarke