Most people do not realise that Australia has many deciduous trees. However, instead of shedding their leaves in Winter, these trees lose them in the Spring. This is their way of conserving water in the dry season. Many of them give wonderful Autumn colours. One of the most common is Terminalia microcarpa commonly called Damson. This tree currently has yellow, orange and green leaves.
It is a widespread species found from South East Asia, through Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, to Northern Australia. It has small sweet edible fruits that are collected and sold in markets in Asia. It was a favourite fruit for our local Kuku Yalanji who call it ‘Jinja Jalka’.
Birds and bats love the fruit and spread the seeds. It blooms between September and October producing small cream flowers.
It is a fast growing species that can reach more than 30 metres in height.
It is an excellent pioneer species for regenerating forests as it can out-compete non-native species such as guinea grass and vines, quickly shading them out. Its ability to attract many bird and bat species results in the seeds of numerous other species being spread and germinating around them, substantially increasing the diversity of species in the regenerated forests.
Terminalia microcarpa is a very attractive tall garden tree. It’s Autumn colours followed by green new leaves with cream flowers make it a great show specimen. Butterflies, bees, birds and other pollinators love the flowers. Its fruits will bring numerous bird species into the garden.
Featured Image: James Cook University