Claoxylon australe


Family: Euphorbiaceae

A shrub or small tree growing to 10 m in height with a trunk diameter to 30 cm.

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, with some occurrences found in the central western slopes.

It grows in all types of eastern Australian rainforests.

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.

Claoxylon spp. have simple and alternate leaves. In this species, they are toothed in an irregular manner; oblong to elliptical in shape, to 12 cm long and 5 cm wide with a blunt leaf tip, mid to dark green.

Claoxylon have 3- to 4-merous flowers which are typically unisexual. In this species, greenish to yellow flowers form on racemes in the months of October to November. Male and female flowers are on separate plants (dioecious). Male racemes are 5–8 cm long with flowers conspicuously staminate with female inflorescences 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 is a genus of about 80 species, occurring in Madagascar, India, Malesia and Australia. Australia has 4 species, occurring in Queensland and NSW, with 1 species in NSW.

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.

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

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Claoxylon australe profile page

Growing Illawarra Natives – Claxoxylon australe blog post http://blog.growingillawarranatives.org/2018/01/try-growing-brittlewood-claoxylon.html

Growing Illawarra Natives – Claxoxylon australe profile page https://finder.growingillawarranatives.org/plants/plant/129

Burringbar Rainforest Nursery – Claxoxylon australe sales page        https://burringbarrainforestnursery.com.au/plant-search/claoxylon-australe-brittlewood/

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke.