Persoonia pinifolia is a large shrub about 2–4 metres, with smooth grey bark.
It is very common in sheltered open forests on sandstone in the Sydney region, including along sandstone creeks and pools, but is not found north or south of Sydney, confined between Broken Bay, the Royal National Park and the Blue Mountains.
The leaves grow to 5 cm long, and only 0.1-0.2 cm wide, and are crowded along the stems.
Persoonia flowers are typically produced either solitarily, or, in a raceme-like arrangement which can grow on into a leafy shoot. The flower structure is very similar to genera such as Hakea and Grevillea; a perianth of 4 tepals (either sepals or petals) is at the base, 4 stamens which rise above the perianth (the anther bases can be fused to the tepals or free), surrounding one carpel (female part); almost always yellow in colour.
In this species, small yellow flowers, about 15 mm wide, are produced at the end of the branches in clusters up to about 15 cm long by 4 cm wide, in autumn.
The fruits are drupes, green and mostly round in shape, to about 1 cm wide, and can be seen forming like a bunch of grapes at the end of the branches.
This is a reliable species in cultivation and one of the best choices. If plants can be sourced, they tend to establish well on a sandy soil to heavier soil in some cases. Plant in an open sunny spot for best results, with good drainage.
The leaves add softness to the garden and are pleasant to touch and run hands through. Birds are attracted to the fleshy fruit.
It is a hardy plant with little maintenance required.
It is an ideal Australian native to use as a Christmas tree.
Generally difficult from seed or cuttings and seed needs to be scarified and sown as soon as fresh. Propagation of Persoonia species is becoming more common in nurseries and working with the seeds has attracted many amateur attempts, but with large amounts of resulting frustration.
There is advice that the outer fruit coating (the exocarp) needs to be clipped to open it up, and then the seed put into a solution containing the plant propagation hormone GA (Giberellic Acid) for several hours to days. This will trigger the seed to germinate.
Other techniques include putting fruits in a bag with potting mix for 12 months and storing in a glass house / propagation shed, then clean and sand the fruits and then sow, with germination taking another 6 months (information from Sutherland Shire Bushcare).
This species can initially be confused with Persoonia linearis which has stiffer, slightly broader leaves and dark papery bark. P. pinifolia is known to hybridise with P. linearis.
Persoonia is a genus of about 100 hundred species, all endemic to Australia, occurring in all states and territories. NSW currently has around 51 species – some of which are species complex with many subspecies taxa, and some which are threatened with extinction.
It is reported that the fruit can be eaten raw or cooked, succulent but astringent. The fruit has a sweet fibrous pulp that is fixed to one large seed, it tastes somewhat like sweet cotton wool and is relished by First Nations Peoples of Australia.
The term ‘geebung’ is derived from the Dharug language word geebung, while the Wiradjuri term was jibbong.
One common name for Persoonia species is Snottygobble which refers to the texture of the fruit, which can be mucus-y or slimy.
It regenerates from seed after fire.
Persoonia – is named in honour of the Dutch mycologist and botanist Christiaan Hendrik Persoon (1761–1836) (by James Edward Smith) who assisted Linnaeus with Fungi taxonomy and is regarded as the pioneer of systematic mycology.
pinifolia – Latin refers to the pine-like (Pinus genus) leaves.
This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild.
NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Persoonia pinifolia profile page https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Persoonia~pinifolia
Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.
Gardening with Angus – Persoonia pinifolia profile page