Syzygium luehmannii

Small-leaved Lilly Pilly, Riberry, Riberry Lilly Pilly

Family: Myrtaceae

A medium-sized to large lilly pilly, potentially with large buttresses, growing to 30 metres tall in its natural habitat.

Its natural occurrence is restricted to the North Coast of NSW, growing in coastal subtropical and littoral rainforest, north of Kempsey. Extends into south-east Queensland.

Syzygium spp. have simple and opposite leaves. In this species, the leaves are glossy-green, with the lower surface much paler, ranging from ovate to lanceolate, to about 8 cm long and 3 cm wide, with a long prominent drip 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 staminate flowers are cream/white in colour but not overly large, yet they are produced in large numbers, about 6 mm long and 5 mm wide.

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 in colour, somewhat pear-shaped or round, to about 1 cm long and 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.

Needs some room to grow as it will spread out. Expect a 10 to 20 m tree over time in a garden. It can be pruned and kept shorter. It is a useful hedging plant.

Drought tolerant once established. 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. Pleasant smelling foliage and attractive flowers.

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

Not really known to be troubled by pests and diseases and it is resistant to the psyllid that other lilly pillies are troubled by.


Propagation from seed or soft-wood cuttings.

Other information

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 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. 

luehmannii – named in honour of Johann George Luehmann (1843-1904), a German who came to Australia assisting botanist Ferdinand von Mueller and, who succeded him as Victorian Government botanist.

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

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

Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants – Syzygium luehmannii profile page https://apps.lucidcentral.org/rainforest/text/entities/syzygium_luehmannii.htm

Gardening with Angus – Syzygium luehmannii profile page https://www.gardeningwithangus.com.au/syzygium-leumannii-riberry/

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