Syzygium paniculatum

Magenta Lilly Pilly, Magenta Cherry

Family: Myrtaceae

A shrub to medium tree, to about 15 – 20 m tall in its natural habitat.

It grows along the coast of NSW, in subtropical and littoral rainforest, as well as sand dunes behind the beach. Found from generally north of Jervis Bay to about Buladelah. There are extensive stands of it around the central coast of NSW, but it is considered threatened in the wild. However, in other areas, it has become weedy due to a long history of planting.

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

Syzygium produce 4 to 5-merous flowers with many stamens surrounding 1 carpel (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 and are produced in large numbers, about 10 mm across long with stamens 15 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 purple to magenta (between red and purple), somewhat globe-shaped or cherry-shaped, to about 25 mm 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. Needs some room to grow once established, as planted specimens can exceed 10 m by 5 m wide.

Also, a great specimen tree in a large lawn or park. It has been in cultivation for a long time and has been popular.
In some areas, it may establish in bushland where it is not a local, which can create confusion and concern as this is a listed threatened species.

This author is familiar with planted grandiose specimens in old established gardens in Sydney’s northern suburbs.

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 and fruits more prolifically after pruning. The purple/magenta fruits are also a feature.

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

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


Propagation from seed or soft-wood cuttings.

Other information

Considered to be very similar to Syzygium oleosum, S. australe and S. crebrinerve. There are differences with the number and size of oil glands in the leaves and fruit characteristics.

There are differences with the number and size of oil glands in the leaves and fruit characteristics.

Known to have the ability to reshoot from suckers after fire and can put up multiple stems (mallee-like habit) on sand dunes.

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.

paniculatum – Latin for panicle-bearing, referring to how the flowers are arranged on this species.

Listed as threatened with extinction in its natural habitat at both State and Commonwealth level (catgories of endangered and vulnerable respectively).

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

Gardening with Angus – Syzygium paniculatum profile page https://www.gardeningwithangus.com.au/syzygium-paniculatum-lilly-pilly/

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