Rhodamnia rubescens

Scrub Turpentine, Brown Malletwood

Family: Myrtaceae

Family: Myrtaceae

A tree to potentially 25 m high, often seen as a medium to large shrub.

It has an almost-purely coastal occurrence in NSW, growing north of Batemans Bay, along the coast, west to Barrington Tops National Park, extending northwards into Queensland, to around Mount Perry, (west of Hervey Bay). 

It is found in warm and subtropical rainforest as well as wet sclerophyll forest and moist-dry sclerophyll woodlands (e.g., Western Sydney Dry Rainforest), usually on enriched soils. 

It was once a very common species but is now listed as threatened with extinction due to the severe effects of Myrtle Rust. It is a critically endangered species.

Rhodamnia spp. have simple and opposite leaves. In this species, they are elliptical in shape to 10 centimetres long, by up to 5 cm wide, light to mid-green in colour and clearly triple-veined, with one central vein and two curved veins closely following the outline of the leaf (they strongly resemble leaves of the genera Tibouchina and Melastoma); sparsely hairy on the upper surface and sparsely to densely hairy on the paler lower surface. 

Rhodamnia spp. have inflorescences produced in the leaf-axils, either as solitary or clustered flowers. Flowers have 4 sepals and 4 petals with stamens numerous surrounding 1 carpel. 

In this species, flowers are produced singularly to 3 per axil, to 12 mm in diameter, white in colour with stamens to 5 mm long; from August to October. 

The fruit is a small berry, initially red then turning to shiny black as it matures from October to December; up to 6 mm in diameter. 

In the garden

This species was known to be propagated and cultivated a long time before its critically-endangered listing but it still continues to be grown.

Many gardeners do report that plants succumb to Myrtle Rust. It may be a case of two-minds here for gardeners, in that we want to grow it if it can be legally sourced but it may prove a host for Myrtle Rust in our gardens eventually. Regular monitoring of planted plants may help to avoid serious issues.  

It is best planted on a well-draining but enriched soil. The foliage is attractive as is the overall plant. 

A good screen plant for difficult situations.

The black fruit is eaten by various birds, including the brown cuckoo dove, figbird, green catbird and rainbow lorikeet.


From seed by first removing the seed from the fleshy berry is advised to assist germination. Regeneration with cuttings is also possible.

Other information

Rhodamnia is a group of rainforest trees or shrubs in the myrtle family described as a genus in 1822. A total of 28 species are housed in the genus, occurring in Australia, New Caledonia and China. Thirteen species are endemic to Australia. NSW currently recognises 4 species with the remainder in Queensland. 

This species grows in fire-prone environments. It likely regenerates from the seedbank. 

Rhodamniafrom the Greek rhodon (ῥόδον) meaning “rose” and –aminon (ἀμνίον) meaning “bowl” – referring to the appearance of the calyx. 

rubescensLatin means “becoming red” – from reading George Bentham’s description of Monoxora rubescens (the basionym for this species) – it seems this refers to tendency for the veins of the leaves to become red. 

This species is now listed as critically endangered in the wild, at both the State and Commonwealth level, due to the effects of Myrtle Rust. 

NSW Office of Environment and Heritage – Threatened Species Profiles – Rhodamnia rubescens https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/threatenedspeciesapp/profile.aspx?id=20341

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

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

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.

By Dan Clarke and Jeff Howes.