Claoxylon australe


Family: Euphorbiaceae

A shrub or small tree growing to 9 metres in height with a trunk diameter of 30 cm. Grows in all types of eastern Australian rainforests. The natural range is from Eden in south eastern New South Wales to Bowen in tropical Queensland. In NSW, it grows primarily on the coast and just into the tablelands, extending into the central western slopes.

The trunk is cylindrical or somewhat flanged at the base in larger plants.
Bark is fawnish-brown or grey, fairly smooth with some lines of vertical bumps and other irregularities. Branchlets often hairy.

Leaves are alternate, simple and toothed in an irregular manner. Oblong or elliptical in shape, to 12 cm long and 5 cm wide with a blunt leaf tip.

Greenish flowers form on racemes in the months of October to November. Male and female flowers are on separate plants (dioecious).
Male racemes 5–8 cm long, females 3–5 cm long, in leaf axils. Individual flowers are very small.

The fruit is a purple/black capsule to 6 mm in diameter, maturing in January to March, globular in shape. Within each of the three lobes of the capsule is one red, warty seed.

In the garden

Not a common garden plant as it can drop branches, hence its common name. But it is proposed by some websites as worth giving a go and is sold (see references below).

It is a rainforest tree with broad leaves and so lends to rainforest themes. Forms a nice round habit if pruned. May form a nice plant if used in conjunction with different foliage textures. It could be useful as a filler in a larger garden, or grown in a large self-watering tub where you need a touch of gentle greenery.

The plant has brittle timber which snaps easily and so a warning is given to consider where it is planted.

Its fruit is eaten by the Brown Cuckoo-Dove and Australian King Parrot.


From seed, germination can be challenging and can take up to 3 months.

Other information

May be prone to fires in more western habitats. But generally lives in areas where fire is not an issue. Can likely regenerate from seed after one fire event.

Claoxylon – from the Ancient Greek roots klao (κλαω), meaning “to break” and xylon (ξύλον), meaning “wood”, referring to the brittle / weak wood of the plant.

australe – southern, referring to the distribution of the species, as all other species of this genus occur further north.

Not considered to be at risk in the wild.


By Jeff Howes