Stenocarpus salignus

Scrub Beefwood, Red Silky Oak

Family: Proteaceae

A tree, sometimes found as a large shrub, growing to potentially 30 metres tall by 10 metres wide. The trunk has dark brown and fissured bark and can have buttress roots.

It is found in NSW and Queensland, mainly in coastal regions, with some records in tablelands areas. It grows north of Nelligen-Durras Lake in NSW, extending along the coast, commonly from Sydney to Newcastle and then in somewhat disjunct occurrences: Port Macquarie, near Armidale and Coffs Harbour, as well as, Lismore. It has a disjunct distribution in Queensland, extending to west of Rockhampton and north to Mackay, then in disjunct patches between Townsville and Cairns and then to Cape York.

It can be found in wet and dry sclerophyll forests (especially in gullies) as well as rainforest, on a range of soils.

Stenocarpus spp. have simple leaves or leaves which are heavily lobed to appear compound, and are arranged alternately. In this species, the leaves are simple, ovate to lanceolate or elliptic, to 100 mm long and to 45 mm wide, with 3 main longitudinal veins present along with a network of finer veins; dark to mid-green in colour and with a leathery texture. The margins are sometimes curvy.

Stenocarpus spp. have flowers typical of the Proteaceae family with 4 tepals, 4 stamens and 1 carpel. In this species, they are produced in umbels of up to 20 flowers, at the terminals, with umbels solitary of in clusters, yellow to cream / green-white in colour (reminiscent of Lomatia spp.); each flower about 30 mm long and very narrow, occurring in October to January. The flowers are fragrant.

Stenocarpus spp. produce a follicle. In this species, they are up to 6 cm long and less than 1 cm wide, initially green and then maturing to brown. The seeds have a papery wing and are about 12 mm long.

In the garden

This species is known to be cultivated and can make a nice garden specimen, as well as a park and street tree. It is sometimes seen in specialist native nurseries in Eastern Australia; it grows well in part shade on well drained mildly acidic soils.

Give some room to spread out and prune in early stages to create a rounded plant. It will tolerate some soil enrichment. Ensure drainage is adequate. Give some water in very dry and hot times, for best results.

It will attract insects and birds. It can be slow growing.


Fresh seeds germinate rapidly, cuttings also strike well.

Other information

Stenocarpus is a genus of about 25 species, Twelve species are endemic to New Caledonia. Australia has 10 species, 8 of which are endemic, occurring in New South Wales, Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia. A further two species, S. moorei and S. sinuatus also occur in New Guinea and the Aru Islands. NSW currently has 2 species. 

The genus Stenocarpus was first formally described in 1810 by Robert Brown in the Transactions of the Linnean Society of London

This plant can regenerate from fire from the seedbank and may be able to produce coppicing or suckering growth. Species in this genus are not reported to have lignotubers.

Stenocarpus – from Greek – Stenos (στενός) – meaning “narrow” and karpos (καρπός) meaning “fruit” – referring to the long follicles of most species.

salignus – Latin meaning “of-willow” – referring to Salix, the willow genus, capturing the willow-like leaves of the species.

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

NSW Flora online (PlantNET) – Stenocarpus salignus profile page

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

Useful Tropical Plants – Stenocarpus salignus profile page

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke.