Scolopia braunii

Flintwood, Mountain Cherry, Brown Birch, Scolopia

Family: Salicaceae

A shrub to medium-sized tree, capable or reaching to 25 metres tall, with a canopy spread of 5 metres or more. 

It has a mostly coastal and coastal inland distribution in NSW, growing north of around Berry on the south coast of NSW, extending northwards, in scattered occurrences to the Queensland border, as far west as dry rainforest patches near Ravensworth (Hunter Valley) and Urbenville – Woodenbong in northern NSW. It extends into Queensland, along the coast and coastal inland to as far north as the tip of Cape York Peninsula and some off-shore islands further north. 

It is typically found in rainforest, including warm temperate, littoral, subtropical and tropical rainforest as well as wet sclerophyll forest and inland eucalypt-dry rainforest.

The trunk is flanged or somewhat buttressed on larger trees. 

Scolopia spp. have simple and alternate leaves. In this species, they are rhombic to lanceolate or elliptic and strongly geometrical with angled margins forming teeth (especially in younger plants and leaves); to 8 cm long and 4 cm wide; somewhat glossy green above with a sheen and silky texture; young leaves can be red-bronze; paler below. Leaves are subtended by spikes in the leaf axils (which often become less common in older plants and foliage). 

Scolopia spp. produce small bisexual flowers in axillary racemes. Flowers are 4-6 merous, often with numerous stamens and 1 carpel. In this species, creamy white flowers form on axillary racemes to about 4 cm long by 2 cm wide, each flower about 4 mm wide, with 4 petals and sepals, and densely crowded, creating a somewhat showy display, in September to November. 

The fruit of Scolopia is a berry. In this species, berries start out yellow then red, turning to black when mature, 1 cm in diameter, containing two to four seeds, ripening from December to April.

In the garden

This is a very nice tree for cultivation and some nice specimens can be seen in botanic gardens around Australia.

In cultivation, it tends to form a rounded canopy, especially with some early pruning and makes a great specimen and shade tree. 

It can be grown on a range of soils with adequate drainage. It needs protection from strong winds and frosts, but is typically hardy, needing low watering once established. 

The foliage is very attractive with its early geometric shapes.

This is a good screening plant, as foliage is retained to ground level. It has been used as a hedge in some cases. 

The fruit is reportedly eaten by the topknot pigeon, Lewin’s honeyeater, figbirds and others.


Cuttings are usually successful although germination of seeds are often erratic.

Other information

Scolopia braunii may be found in fire prone environments. It likely regenerates from seed as well as potential suckering of groundlayer stems-roots.

There are approximately 40 species of Scolopia worldwide growing in subtropical Africa, Asia, Malesia and Australia. There is only this one species in Australia which is endemic. 

Scolopiais derived from the Greek words skolops (σκολοψ) meaning anything “pointed” such as a “sharpened piece of wood or stake”; possibly referring to the spikes / thorns on some species. 

braunii is named for Alexander Carl Heinrich Braun (1805–1877) – a German botanist whose research centred on the morphology of plants and who contributed much to the understanding of plant cells.

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

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia. Scolopia braunii – page 576

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

Growing Illawarra Natives – Scolopia braunii profile page: https://finder.growingillawarranatives.org/plants/plant/462 

Some Magnetic Island Plants – Scolopia braunii profile page: https://somemagneticislandplants.com.au/flintwood 

By Dan Clarke and Jeff Howes.