Monotoca elliptica

Tree Broom Heath

Family: Ericaceae subfam. Epacridoideae

Monotoca elliptica, Tree Broom Heath, is generally a medium reaching about 5 metres (potentially 10 metres in some cases) with a spread of 3 or more.

It has a mostly coastal distribution where it occurs in the wild, from as far north as around Coolum Beach on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, extendig south, along the NSW coast in scattered patches to around Taree, where it is really common further south, down to the Victorian border; also extending as far west as around Lithgow and into the ACT. It grows along the Victorian coast, extending inland in some areas like Bairnsdale and further noth; common on Wilsons Promontory and extending west towards Port Campbell. It occus in Tasmania, mainly on the north and east coasts and on the Bass Strait Islands.

It is often found forming part of coastal heathlands and shrublands, often growing very close to the coast, as well as dry sclerophyll woodlands and forests; occurring mostly on sand-dune soils or sandstone.

Monotoca is an “epacrid” or heath-plant (species that used to occur in family Epacridaceae). This generally means that leaves are simple, often clustered heavily on stems, short and prickly, with parallel venation on the undersides (an unusual feature for dicotyledonous plants). In this species, leaves are spiral to alternate, erect to spreading, to about 25 mm long by 7 mm wide, elliptic to oblong or obloanceolate; blue-green above and much paler below and with entire margins.

Monotoca spp. have 4 to 5-merous flowers, usually with petals fused into a tube with triangular upper lobes, (giving an almost star-shaped appearance) with 5 stamens and 1 carpel. In this species, up to around 15 flowers are produced in short terminal or axillary racemes; each flower only to 4 mm long by 2 mm wide, white to cream in colour; mainly from July to September.

The fruit is a drupe, about 4 mm long, ripening to orange or red (reportedly edible).

In the garden

The “epacrids” have been a notorioulsy difficult group of plants to grow in gardens. This is likely due to their ability to grow in very poor environments and resulting close association with speicific mycorrhizal fungi and other microbes in the soil. Some species are now growing well in cultivation. However, Monotoca is likely “still getting there” in terms of cultivation and very little information can be found online. However, it is a very hardy species in the wild and grows in very harsh environments.

It would make great habitat for small birds. It likely needs a well-drained sandy soil to thrive.

It is a prickly plant which can get large so if it is ever planted, consider the location.


Unknown – possibly from seed and cuttings may work as well.

Other information

Monotoca species likely regenerate from seed after fire. Suckering of large plants may be possible from basal areas.

Monotoca is a genus of 11 species, endemic to Australia, occurring in all states and territories except the Northern Territory. NSW currently has 4 species.

The ‘epacrid’ family has undergone the following reclassifications:

  • From Family Epacridaceae to Family Ericaceae (named for Ericasubfam. Styphelioideae (named for Styphelia)
  • From subfam. Styphelioideae to subfam. Epacridoideae (named for Epacris)

Monotoca – Ancient Greek – Monos – meaning “alone” or “single” and –tokos (τόκος) meaning “birth” – referring to the ovaries of the flowers having only one ovule.

elliptica – Latin “elliptic” – referring to the leaf shape.

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

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

Wikipedia – Monotoca elliptica profile page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monotoca_elliptica

By Peter Shelton. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke