Syzygium australe

Brush Cherry, Scrub Cherry

Family: Myrtaceae

A shrub to small tree, to about 10 m tall in its natural habitat.

It grows along the coast of NSW, north of Batemans Bay, in warmer rainforest, often near streams. Extends into Qld, along the coast, up to around Cairns.

Syzygium spp. have simple and opposite leaves. In this species, they are glossy-green, with the lower surface much paler, ranging from elliptic to obovate, to about 10 cm long and 3 cm wide, with short pointy (acuminate) tip. The large oil glands can be seen with a hand lens.

Syzygium produce 5-merous staminate flowers in panicle-like inflorescences, terminal or axillary on either younger or older wood. In this species, the flowers are produced in clusters in the upper leaf axils and terminals and are quite conspicuous, with flowers are cream/white in colour, produced in large numbers, about 15 mm across long with stamens 20 mm long, creating a “fluffy” flowering effect.

The fruit of Syzygium is a succulent structure – closely resembling a berry or a drupe. Sometimes there is one seed (drupe-like) and sometimes more (berry-like).
In this species, they are very attractive, being red-pink to red in colour, somewhat pear-shaped or longer than wide, to about 25 mm long and 15 mm wide. They can be used to make jam.

In the garden

A very hardy tree with an attractive canopy and overall form. It has an attractive canopy that lends to rainforest themes and shady gardens. It has been in cultivation for a long time and is popular. It is used very successfully as a dense hedge in landscapes and gardens. Can be pruned regularly and heavily.

Drought tolerant once established. Full sun to part shade.

Prune to encourage a desired shape and denser foliage. They can get leggy with gaps in the foliage if not pruned.

Attractive to birds. Likes a well-drained soil with some enrichment. Flowers heavily after pruning.

It also has reddish/pink new growth which is attractive for much of the year.

This species is known to be heavily attacked by psyllid. Psyllids are sap-sucking plant lice with host-specific preferences. The leaves exhibit heavy pimple-like wounds and have distorted growth as a result. Some gardeners choose other lilly pillies which are not affected. Some of the cultivars (see below) have reported psyllid resistance.


Propagation from seed or soft-wood cuttings.

Other information

There are cultivars available called “ST2”, “Resilience” and “Northern Select” amongst others.

Lives in habitat unlikely to burn. It likely has an ability to reshoot from buds in trunk and stems, as well as, suckering growth if damage or burnt.

Syzygium is a large genus of over 1000 species (placing it in the Top-20 most diverse genera of the world); found in Africa, Asia, the wider Pacific and Australia. Australia has about 52 species, 47 species of which are endemic, occurring in New South Wales, Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia. NSW currently has 9 species. 1 species is endemic to Lord Howe Island.  

Syzygium – from the Greek syzygos (σύζυγος) or syzygy (σύζυγi) which means “husband” or “wife” or “spouse”, basically referring to “joined”. It reportedly may refer to some species having leaf bases joined together (as in some Caribbean species); a trait it seems doesn’t really apply to Australian species. Or, may apply to the consistent paired opposite leaves and/or branching pattern. 

australe – Latin for “southern” or “south” – likely referring to its distribution in that it grows much further south than most other Syzygium species.

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

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

Gardening with Angus – Syzygium australe ‘Resilience’ 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.


By Dan Clarke