Lophostemon confertus

Brush Box, Queensland Box, Brisbane Box, Pink Box, Box Scrub, and Vinegar Tree.

Family: Myrtaceae

A potentially large tree, potentially reaching 40 metres tall in its natural environment but generally much smaller in cultivation (5 to 15 metres).

It has rough brown bark on lower trunk and smooth pinkish brown bark on upper trunk and branches. 

It occurs naturally in NSW, north from the Hunter Valley (around Muswellbrook-Dungog), growing along the coast and coastal hinterland (as far west as close to Glen Innes); into Queensland where it occurs commonly along the coast to north of Cook Town. 

It grows in rainforest or wet sclerophyll forest, often as an emergent.

It has become a weed in some cases, outside of its natural environment, in places such as Sydney the Blue Mountains, NSW. (This Editor has seen a substantial invasion on the edge of the Royal National Park at Loftus in the south of Sydney). 

Lophostemon spp. have simple and alternate to pseudo-whorled leaves (the former on older mature branches and the latter on branch terminals and young shoots); to 18 cm long by 5 cm wide; broad-elliptic to ovate to lanceolate with an acute apex; leathery in texture and glossy green; on petioles to 25 mm long.

Lophostemon spp. have 5-merous, staminate and bisexual flowers, with 5 sepals. 5 petals and numerous stamens in 5 bundles (each bundle opposite a petal); with flowers typically produced in axillary cymose clusters. In this species, flowers are produced in clusters of 3 to 7, each flower about 20 mm across, white in colour and with staminal bundles very conspicuous; occurring in late spring and summer.

Lophostemon spp. have a capsule. In this species, it is to 12 mm in diameter with seeds to 3 mm long. 

In the garden

This species has had an amazing use in horticulture through the years and may have now fallen out of favour somewhat. However, its history should be covered here:

It is considered (or at least was), the most numerous planted tree-species in Sydney with many of the older suburban streets lined with this species (especially the inner city and inner west). Strathfield Council may have led this trend by adopting it in the early 1900s as its favourite street tree. It can be commonly seen in parks, school grounds, around railway stations, council landscapes and sports fields.

It makes a very reliable and useful street tree, often with little in the way of maintenance issues. 

It grows well on any soil with adequate drainage, either as a street, park or yard tree. It has a nice rounded form and does not get overly large (although it should not really be planted under powerlines). 

It is considered safer than many eucalypts because it rarely sheds limbs.

The flowers are attractive. Very hardy once established. 

Plant with caution as it can become a weed outside of its natural habitat. 


From seed. Germinate in 4 to 14 days.

Other information

This species can likely regenerate from seed and possibly epicormic growth after fire if in habitats where fire is an issue. 

A number are important timber species. Brush Box is hard and tough and is suitable for flooring, turnery and wharf and bridge decking while Swamp Mahogany is often used in situations where it comes in contact with the ground.

Lophostemon is a genus of 4 species, occurring in Australia and New Guinea. Three species are endemic to Australia, occurring in Queensland, NSW, Northern Territory and Western Australia. NSW currently has 2 species. All 4 species were previously included in the related genus Tristania.

Lophostemon – from Greek – Lofos (Λόφος) meaning “hill” or “crest” and –stêma (στῆμα) meaning “stamen”, referring to “crested stamens” – possibly referring to the appearance of the anthers on the stamens.  

confertusLatin meaning “crowded” or “dense” – likely referring to the almost-whorled foliage at the branch terminals.

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

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

Plant of South Eastern New South Wales – LUCID identification website / online app –  Lophostemon confertus profile page.  https://apps.lucidcentral.org/rainforest/text/entities/lophostemon_confertus.htm

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2013). Australian Native Plants Cultivation, Use in Landscaping and Propagation. Sixth edition. Profile page 585 for Lophostemon confertus.

Gardening with Angus – Lophostemon confertus profile page https://www.gardeningwithangus.com.au/lophostemon-confertus-queensland-brush-box/ 

Robinson, L. (1991). Field Guide to the Native Plants of Sydney. Revised 3rd Edition. Kangaroo Press, NSW.

By Jeff Howes and Dan Clarke