Leionema scorpulinum

Forest Phebalium

Family: Rutaceae

A shrub to 2 metres high with angled stems with stellate (star-shaped hairs).

It has a restricted distribution in the wild, growing north-east of Kandos in Wollemi National Park, with some records also south-west of Glen Davis, relatively nearby.

It is found growing on rocky ledges on sandstone (described as “sandstone-pagoda” formations).

Leionema spp. have characteristics matching those of other similar Rutaceae genera, (e.g. Philotheca, Phebalium, Crowea); i.e., simple and alternate leaves, usually with oil glands.

In this species, leaves are flat, to 65 mm long by 10 mm wide with serrulate (finely serrated) margins, mid to dark green.

Leionema spp. have 5-merous flowers; i.e. 5 sepals, 5 petals and usually 10 stamens surrounding 5 carpels, with an overall attractive star-shaped appearance. Flowers can be produced in leaf axils or branch terminals, in cymose clusters or solitary.

In this species, flowers are produced in terminal clusters with up to 35 flowers per cluster, green-yellow in colour, appearing in April to September.

The fruit of Leionema is a schizocarp-capsule – which splits into equal segments on maturity which each segment called a coccus (plural cocci).

The capsule is approximately 7 mm long in this species.

In the garden

This species is not widely known to be cultivated. It may be difficult to grow or may not have been trialled sufficiently. Check with local native nurseries for availability. It certainly appears attractive, with its comparatively larger leaves and yellow-green flowers.

In cultivation, Leionema spp. prefer well drained (sandy to sandy loams), acidic soils in dappled shade or morning-light positions. They are highly-drought tolerant once established but benefit from some supplementary watering. It is advised to add some slow-release fertiliser when first planted and they will benefit from periodic organic fertilising (eg: blood and bone or seaweed solution).

It has been reported that species in this genus should be cultivated more widely and simply need more attention and effort (see Australian Native Plants Society Australia weblink in the references).  


In common with most members of the Rutaceae, propagation from seed is difficult but cuttings usually strike readily.

Other information

Leionema are a genus of 28 known species, 27 of which are endemic to Australia, with 1 species endemic to New Zealand. NSW currently has 15 species.

These species have been previously classified in the genus Eriostemon and Phebalium. Leionema differs by not having anthers with an apical point or gland, as well as free sepals on the flowers and small bracteoles on the middle to upper part of flower stalks (pedicels).

Most Leionema spp. would likely die in a fire and regenerate from seed. Some basal regrowth or stem-reshooting may be possible.

Leionema – from Greek leios (λείος), meaning smooth”, and nema (nήμα), a thread, referring to a ‘hilar strand’; a small piece of tissue joining the hilum (a scar on the side of the seed) to the ovule.

scopulinumLatin, meaning “of rocky places”. Likely rooted in Greek (skopelos, Σκόπελος) referring to “lookout place” or “headland” (with a Greek island bearing this name); referring to the rocky habitat where this species is found.

This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild but has a restricted distribution.

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

Wikipedia – Leionema and Leionema scopulinum profile page      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leionema


Australian Native Plants Society Australia – Poor Relations – Phebalium / Leionema / Nematolepis http://anpsa.org.au/APOL20/dec00-4.html

By Dan Clarke