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Alphitonia petriei



Botanical Name

Alphitonia petriei Braid & C.T.White ex Braid

White, C.T. & Braid, K.W. (1925) Bulletin of Miscellaneous Information, Kew: 178. Type: Johnston River, Ladbrook 46; Kuranda, White (1525) 43.

Common name

Pink Almond; Whiteleaf; White Ash; Soap Tree; Sarsaparilla; Red Ash; Red Almond; Foambark; Ash, White; Ash, Pink; Ash, Red; Pink ash


Strong liniment odour produced by the inner blaze or the cambial layer. A minority of observers liken the odour to that of sarsaparilla.


Leaf blades about 6.5-16 x 2.5-7.5 cm, almost white on the underside. Stipules small and inconspicuous, about 1-3 mm long. Broken twigs produce an odour like that of the inner blaze.


Flowers cream to pale green. Calyx lobes 2-2.5 mm long. Petals hooded, about 1.5-2.5 mm long. Stamens enveloped in the petals. Disk thin, surface not corrugated. Style extended at anthesis.


Fruits about 7-15 mm diam. Mesocarp powdery at maturity. Seeds inflexibly attached to the receptacle.


Cotyledons about 6-8 mm long. First pair of leaves occasionally with a few teeth. At the tenth leaf stage: leaf blade white on the underside from matted downy hairs; petiole often clothed in tortuous, brown hairs; stipules short, hairy.

Distribution and Ecology

Probably endemic to Australia, occurs in CYP, NEQ and southwards to north-eastern New South Wales. Altitudinal range in CYP and NEQ from 100-1200 m. Grows in well developed rain forest on a variety of sites but is more common in upland and mountain areas. This species is favoured by disturbance and is a characteristic component of rain forest regrowth, often dominating the regrowth along new roads through rain forest.

Natural History

Seeds eaten by King Parrots and Crimson Rosellas, fallen fruit eaten by Cassowaries. Cooper & Cooper (1994).

The most distinctive character of this tree is the scent of the leaves and fresh bark; they smell of oil of wintergreen, a scent recognized as one of the ingredients of sarsaparilla drinks and of various proprietary lines such as some toothpastes. Cribb (1981).

Sometimes grows large enough to produce millable logs. Produces a useful general purpose timber.

Wood specific gravity 0.51. Cause et al. (1989).





Shrub (woody or herbaceous, 1-6 m tall)




RFK Code