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.

The leaves are opposite and 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.

The flowers are produced in clusters in the upper leaf axils and terminals and are quite conspicuous.
The staminate flowers are cream/white in colour and are 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) and sometimes more (berry).
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. Likely has an ability to reshoot from buds in trunk and stems as well as suckering growth if damage or burnt.

Syzygium – from the Greek syzygos (σύζυγος) or syzygy (σύζυγi) which means “husband” or “wife” or “spouse”, basically referring to “joined”. It refers to some species having leaf bases joined together (some Caribbean species) which were named before Australian species.
australe – Latin for southern or south – likely referring to its distribution in that it has an atypical far-south distribution (most Syzygium grow in the tropics).

Not considered to be at risk in the wild.

By Dan Clarke