Syzygium wilsonii

Powderpuff Lilly Pilly, Water Gum, Plum Satinash

Family: Myrtaceae

A shrub to 3 m tall and slow growing.

It grows in far northern Queensland in rainforests, from Ingham to Cooktown.

The leaves are opposite and glossy-green, somewhat leathery, with the lower surface much paler, ranging from lanceolate to elliptic, to about 18 cm long and 5 cm wide, with a long pointy (acuminate) tip. The large oil glands can be seen with a hand lens and are numerous and translucent. The new growth is red to bronze and very attractive.

The flowers are produced in panicle-like clusters in the upper leaf axils and terminals and are quite conspicuous.
The staminate flowers are pink-red to red in colour and are produced in large numbers, about 10 mm across long with stamens up to 20 mm or more long, creating a very eye-catching effect. The flowers are typically larger than other more southern lilly pillies.

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 white and elliptic in shape, to about 20 mm long by 15 mm wide. They can be used to make jam.

In the garden

A somewhat hardy shrub, it may depend where it is grown. It lends to rainforest themes and shady gardens. It may be slow growing.

However, the flowers and coloured new growth are quite spectacular. Will be long-lived if happy.

Give some supplementary water, especially in hot dry conditions. Full sun to part shade. Likes an enriched soil but ensure good drainage.

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.

This species is not considered to be heavily attacked by psyllid. It can suffer from scale.


Propagation from seed or soft-wood cuttings.

Other information

Lives in habitat unlikely to burn. Likely killed by fire but may be able to produce suckering and epicormic growth.

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.
wilsonii – named in honour of Edward Wilson (1813-1878) by Ferdinand von Mueller (named as Eugenia wilsonii). Wilson was an Englishman who became a journalist, newspaper owner and philanthropist in Victoria. He is best known for his role in the Acclimatisation Society of Victoria.

Not considered at risk in the wild.


By Dan Clarke