Xanthostemon chrysanthus

Golden Penda

Family: Myrtaceae

A very commonly planted tree, reaching 20 metres tall in its natural habitat.

It is endemic to far northern Queensland, from Townsville to Cape York, forming part of tropical rainforest vegetation.

Xanthostemon spp. have simple and alternate leaves, often heavily clustered on stems. In this species, the leaves are lanceolate and glossy green, to about 15 cm long and 3 cm wide.

Xanthostemon spp. have 5-merous and conspicuously staminate flowers in axillary and near-terminal inflorescences. In this species, the flowers are produced in head-like clusters which creates a very appealing show, with flowers bright/fluorescent yellow in colour which is an attractive feature, 5-petaled, about 1.5 cm wide with yellow/golden stamens up to 3 cm long.

The fruit is a capsule, about 14 mm diameter.

In the garden

Author’s notes: A very hardy tree with an attractive canopy and overall form. It has been popular in parks and as a feature planting for some time. The yellow flowers can be produced profusely creating a very attractive shrub. It forms a great part of rainforest and tropical-style gardens.

Relatively easy to grow, although many Myrtaceae trees can take a while to establish and grow. But this is balanced by trees being very long-lived. This species can grow relatively quickly.

It will provide dense shade. Has a nice dense canopy. Needs some room to grow as it will spread out. Expect a 10 to 15 m tree if grown in a garden over time, to about 5 m wide. It can be pruned heavily and turned into a dense topiary or hedging plant and to generally promote flowering.

Likes a well-drained soil with some enrichment. Likes humid conditions.

May be susceptible to Myrtle Rust. May not do as well in temperate areas and will not tolerate frost.

Hugh Stacy: Although the Golden Penda has flowered well at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney, it may not be seasonally consistent. It needs a sunny aspect, ample water and reasonable drainage. Plants grown from cuttings branch lower, set foliage to the ground and flower sooner.

Prune annually. Seedlings could become large trees 15 m high. A much smaller tree (to 7 m) which also has masses of yellow fluffy flowers is X. paradoxus which is also from northern Australia, and was recommended by John Wrigley as an alternative.


Propagation from seed or semi-hard wood cuttings.

Other information

Some cultivars are available such as ‘Fairhill Gold’, “Expo Gold”. See references below. There are some compact forms available that only grow to 3 m tall.

This plant is the floral emblem of Cairns, Queensland.

Fire response unknown. Grows naturally in habitats not prone to fire.

Xanthostemon is a genus of about 50 species, distributed from The Philippines, through Indonesia and Malesia, New Caledonia (most species), The Soloman Islands, New Guinea and Australia. Australia has about 15 species, most endemic, occurring in Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia.

Xanthostemon – from the Greek – xanthos (ξανθός) meaning “blond” or “yellow” and and stêma (στῆμα) meaning “stamen” – referring to the golden conspicuous staminate flowers of the genus.

chrysanthus – from the Greek – chrysos (χρυσός) meaning “gold” and anthos (ανθός) – meaning “flowers”; – again referring to the conspicuous yellow flowers.

This species is not considered to be at risk in the wild. But has a limited distribution.

Gardening with Angus – Xathostemon chrysanthus profile page and ‘Fairhill Gold’ profile page

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.