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.

Syzygium spp. have simple and opposite leaves. In this species, the leaves are 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.

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 flowers are produced in panicle-like clusters in the upper leaf axils and terminals and are quite conspicuous. In this species, each flower has four petals and sepals and many long free stamens coloured rich wine red, with flowers about 1 cm wide with stamens about 2 cm long. A number of flowers are attached by pedicels radiating from the top of a peduncle, while several peduncles are spaced along and around a central stem. If all flowers are open the entire cluster (conflorescence) can appear spherical, to 10 cm across, 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. Plants require well-composted soil and do better in mostly shady conditions. Ensure adequate 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

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

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.

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.

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

Australian National Herbarium – Syzygium wilsonii profile page       https://www.anbg.gov.au/gnp/interns-2004/syzygium-wilsonii.html

Australian Native Plants Society Australia – Syzygium wilsonii profile page https://anpsa.org.au/plant_profiles/syzygium-wilsonii

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. Additional text by Hugh Stacy.