Emmenosperma alphitonioides

Yellow Ash or Bonewood

Family: Rhamnaceae

A rainforest tree growing to 40 m tall potentially (often seen smaller), with a canopy spread to 10 metres. 

It has a mostly coastal distribution in NSW, growing from as far south as north-west of and, in vicinity to, Batemans Bay (Clyde River), northwards to the Queensland border, extending as far west as Barrington National Park and the Lower Blue Mountains. It extends into Queensland, mostly continuously to Gympie; then with a large disjunction to west of Mackay and more disjunction around the greater Cairns-area and then further north to the Cape York Peninsula. It is also found in the Northern Territory in Kakadu National Park.

It is generally found in coastal warm temperate, subtropical and tropical rainforests, on enriched soils. 

The outer bark is fissured and silvery grey with fissures become more evident on larger trees. The trunk is somewhat flanged at the base. 

Emmenosperma spp. have simple and opposite to slightly alternate leaves. In this species, leaves are opposite or almost-so, to 10 cm long and 5 cm wide, ovate and green and glossy; overall, plants can have a somewhat “large-leaf privet” appearance.

Emmenosperma spp. produce flowers in cymes or panicles at the stem terminals. Flowers are 5-merous with 5 sepals, petals and stamens and 1 carpel (bisexual). In this species, flowers are small, only about 3 mm across, but arranged in showy panicles to about 5 x 5 cm; white to cream in colour with the central female part a darker yellow, produced mainly from August to November. 

The fruit of Emmenosperma is a fleshy capsule. In this species, it bright orange and fleshy, up to 8 mm in diameter, with two red seeds; maturing from March to August.  

In the garden

This species is known to be reliably cultivated, especially in parks and botanic gardens. It is sold in some native nurseries. It is used successfully as a street tree.  

A handsome tree with masses of bright orange berries in Autumn/winter.

Best planted in full sun to part shade on an enriched soil which can have compost or organic matter added. 

It may not be suitable for small gardens. 

It is reportedly prone to borer attacks which can severely damage this species. 


From fresh seed after removing the outer fleshy material.

Other information

This species likely grows mostly in habitats where fire is absent. It may be able to regenerate successfully after low-intensity or infrequent fire from seed. It is likely it cannot recover from frequent or hot fires.

Emmenosperma is a small genus of mostly tropical trees in the family Rhamnaceae, comprising 3 species occurring in Australia & New Caledonia. Australia has 2 species (endemic) occurring in chiefly topical areas of Qld, N.S.W. and W.A. NSW only has this sole species.   

EmmenospermaGreek emmeno (ἐμμένω) meaning to “remain” or “continue” and sperma (σπέρμα). It refers to the seeds remaining stuck to the fruiting base, after the fruit valves have fallen away.

alphitonioidesLatin – appearing similar to the genus Alphitonia (of which Australia has some native species).

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

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2013). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 6th edition. Reed New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia; profile page 553 for Emmenosperma alphitonioides

Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants – LUCID Online Website / App (CSIRO) – Emmenosperma alphitonoides profile page https://apps.lucidcentral.org/rainforest/text/entities/emmenosperma_alphitonioides.htm 

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

Growing Illawarra Natives – Emmenosperma alphitonioides profile page: https://finder.growingillawarranatives.org/plants/plant/207

By Dan Clarke and Jeff Howes.