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Alphitonia excelsa

Family

Rhamnaceae

Botanical Name

Alphitonia excelsa (Fenzl) Benth.

Bentham, G. (1863) Flora Australiensis 1: 414. Type: ?.

Synonyms

Alphitonia excelsa (Fenzl) Benth. var. excelsa, Comprehensive Catalogue of Queensland Plants: 837(1913), Type: ?. Colubrina excelsa Cunn. ex Fenzl, Enum. Pl. Hueg.: 20(1837), Type: Australia, A. Cunningham(?).

Common name

Asg, Red; Humbug; Leatherjacket; Coopers Wood; Mountain Ash; Soap Tree; Red Tweedie; Sarsaparilla; Red Almond; RED ASH

Stem

Usually encountered as a small tree less than 30 cm dbh but recorded to 40 cm dbh. Bark usually somewhat fissured and corky towards the base of the trunk.

Leaves

Leaf blades about 3-11 x 1.8-6 cm, white or whitish on the underside. Stipules long and narrow, about 3-10 x 1 mm, gradually tapering to a fine point. Freshly broken twigs emit a faint sarsaparilla or liniment odour. Young shoots rusty hairy.

Flowers

Flowers greenish. Calyx lobes acute, about 1.5-2 mm long. Petals hooded, about 1.5 mm long. Stamens enveloped in the petals. Disk thin, surface not corrugated. Style extended at anthesis.

Fruit

Fruits 5-9 mm diam. Mesocarp powdery at maturity. Seeds inflexibly attached to the receptacle.

Seedlings

Cotyledons ovate, elliptic or obovate, about 8-16 x 9-11 mm. First pair of leaves toothed, undersides clothed in matted hairs. At the tenth leaf stage: leaf blade underside clothed in white, downy hairs; hairs on stem erect, pale brown. Stipules hairy, linear, up to 3 mm long.

Distribution and Ecology

Probably endemic to Australia, occurs in WA, NT, CYP, NEQ and southwards to south-eastern New South Wales. Altitudinal range in northern Australia from sea level to 800 m. Grows in open forest, monsoon forest and dry rain forest. There may be two taxa included in Alphitonia excelsa in this key viz. A. excelsa (Fenzl) Benth. sensu stricto and A. excelsa 'Broad leaved form' sensu K.R. Thiele. The resolution of this problem must await the publication of a revision of the genus.

Natural History

Food plant for the larval stages of the Large Green-banded Blue, Small Green-banded Blue, Copper Jewel, Fiery Jewel and Indigo Flash Butterflies. Common & Waterhouse (1981).

The leaves possess a high saponin content sufficient to make a froth if they are crushed and shaken in water. Cribb (1981).

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

Wood specific gravity 0.77. Cause et al. (1989).

WA

X

NT

X

CYP

X

NEQ

X

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

X

Tree

X

RFK Code

480