― 209 ―

No. 37: Flindersia maculosa,


The Leopard Wood

(Natural Order MELIACEÆ.)

Botanical description

— Genus, Flindersia, R.Br.

Calyx. — Small 5-lobed.

Petals. — Five, imbricate in the bud, spreading.

Disc. — Broad, concave.

Stamens. — Five, inserted on the outside of the disc, with as many or fewer staminodia alternating with them, sometimes wanting; filaments subulate; anther versatile.

Ovary. — Five-celled, 5-lobed.

Style. — Short, thick, inserted between the lobes.

Stigma. — Capitate; ovules 4 to 6 in each cell.

Capsule. — Oblong, hard, tuberculate or muricate, opening septicidally in 5 boat-shaped valves or cocci, without any persistent axis.

Seeds. — Flat, winged, two or three on each side of a flat placenta, which almost divides each cell into two; albumen none; cotyledons flat, radicle very short.


Leaves. — Alternate or more frequently opposite, pinnate or rarely simple, marked with pellucid dots.

Flowers. — In terminal panicles.

Botanical description

— Species, F. maculosa, F.v.M., ex Benth. in B.Fl. i, 388.

A small tree, the trunk remarkably spotted by the falling off of the outer bark in patches.

Leaves. — Opposite or nearly so, glabrous, coriaceous, the glandular dots often only visible on the young ones, in some specimens all simple, linear oblong or lanceolate, obtuse or emarginate and mucronate, 1 to 2 inches long, or rather more; in other specimens a few of the leaves break out into two or three narrow continuous lobes; in others, again, all are pinnate, with three or five leaflets, like the simple leaves, but smaller, and a winged common petiole.

Panicles. — Terminal, rather dense, usually shorter than the leaves.

Sepals. — Scarcely 1 line long.

Petals. — About 2 lines long glabrous.

Capsule. — Oblong and muricate, like those of the other species, but much smaller, often not more than 1 inch long when fully ripe.

Seeds. — Winged at both ends and along, the back. — (B.Fl. i, 388)

  ― 210 ―

Botanical Name

— Flindersia, in honour of Captain Matthew Flinders so honourably identified with the early exploration of the Australian coast; maculosa, Latin, spotted, in allusion to the appearance of the bark.

Vernacular Names

— "Leopard Tree" and "Spotted Tree" are the two commonest names given to this tree, in allusion to the appearance of the bark. It is sometimes called "Prickly Pine," a most unsuitable name, for a reason which will be understood when the notes on the early growth of the tree are perused.

Aboriginal Names

— "Murki " of the aborigines of the Lower Lachlan, according to the late Mr. K. H. Bennett, of Ivanhoe, viâ Hay.


— Elædendron maculosum, Lind.; Strzeleckya dissosperma, F.v.M.; Flindersia Strzeleckiana, F.v.M., Fragm. i, 165 (1859); F. maculata, F.v.M., in Quart. Journ. and Trans.Pharm.Soc.Vict. ii, 44 (April, 1859). There are two forms of this species-(a) a simple leaved form with a, membraneous disc, called F. maculosa (at one time described erroneously as F. maculata); (b) a trifoliate form with a more fleshy disc, F. Strzeleckiana. Mueller originally (Quart. Journ. and Trans. Pharm. Soc. Vict. ii, 44) thought them distinct species, saying, "I have at present no hesitation in regarding these two plants as distinct on account of their foliage, until it is proved that like in certain Boroniæ, simple and pinnate leaved plants are produced by the genus Flindersia; all the specimens from near the Darling and its tributaries showing simple, all the tropical compound leaves." Later Mueller united his two species; in the Census he suppresses F. maculosa, F.v.M., and has F. Strzeleckiana, F.v.M., Fragm. i, 65 (1858)note; B.Fl. i, 389; Fragm. ix, 133 (1875). The last reference gives simply some New South Wales and Queensland localities and the note —

Cl. Bowman varietatem foliolis pluries majoribus misit.

As he had just given the record "Bogan" (Bowman), Bowman's plant with some pinnate leaves is therefore recorded from N.S.W., and is, consequently, not confined to Queensland.

Bentham (B.Fl. i, 390) also combined the species, and adds these words —

The simple-leaved specimens which are the most frequent in New South Wales have much the habit of Geijera, to which, in fact, the genus is very nearly allied. The pinnate-leaved specimens are chiefly tropical, but not exclusively so. He, however, suppressed Strzeleckiana in favour of maculosa.

Casimir De Candolle (Monogr. Phanerog. i, 734) recognises two species, and Bailey (Queensland Flora) adopts his view.

I follow Bentham and Mueller in looking upon the forms as belonging to one species.

  ― 211 ―

It now becomes necessary to decide as to the name of the species. Flindersia Strzeleckiana, F.v.M., was published in Fragm. i, 65. This was Fasciculus IV, and at p. 96 we have the imprint "Fasciculus IV, editus Februario, 1859."

F. maculosa, F.v.M., in Jour. Pharm. Soc. Vict. ii, 44, quoted in B.Fl. i, 388, is a mistake. It should be F. maculata, F.v.M., and it was published in the Quarterly Journal and Trans. of the Pharm. Soc. Vict. vol. ii, p. 44, on 1st April, 1859.

As regards Flindersia maculata, F.v.M., I quote the following "Notes on some rare and medicinal plants of Australia," by Ferdinand Mueller, from the very rare serial publication just referred to, which has been copied for me by the kindness of Mr. Harry Shillinglaw, Secretary of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australasia, Melbourne:—

Amongst the plants constituting part of the Brigalow scrubs in the depressed interior of New South Wales occurs a small tree, which, on account of its spotted bark, attracted the attention of Sir Thomas Mitchell when tracing the course of the Maranoa River ; and the squatters, on the Darling have very appropriately applied to it the name of "Spotted tree."

It attains a height of about 20 feet. Its bark is irregularly areolate, the grey epiphlæum separates in small pieces, thus uncovering partially the livid or cinpamon-coloured inner stratum of the bark and thereby renders it singularly spotted. The wood is pale. Professor Lindley in describing this tree, evidently from flowering specimens only, referred it to the genus Elæodendron or spindleworts.

The Rev. Mr. Goodwin and Mr. Dallachy, on travelling lately over the Darling Plains, towards Mount Murchison, noticed the same tree, which is stated to make its appearance first above Moninda, and specimens with young fruit collected on those localities being communicated, I ascertained that this curious plant belongs to that sub-genus of Flindersia, which I have on account of habitual difference, and its hardly woody fruits, separated as Strzeleckia in Sir. William Hooker's Journal of Botany for 1857, pp. 308 and 309, whilst with a more conservative view I united the only known Strzeleckia in the Fragmenta Phytographia Australia, i, 4, 65 and 66, to Flindersia.

Although I have failed in finding any clear distinction in the flowers or in fruits of Strzeleckia Dissosperma, and Elæodendron, of which I examined original specimens in Sir Thomas Mitchell's collection, I have at present no hesitation in regarding these two plants as distinct on account, of their foliage.

The following diagnosis would characterise sufficiently the Darling plant:— Flindersia maculata (Strzeleckia):— Leaves opposite, rather small, simple, oblong, with cuneate base, with blunt or emarginate apex, and with short petioles; without pellucid dots I branches of the panicle opposite ; lobes of the calyx almost orbicular, ciliolate ; sterile stamens, five or less ; stigma peltate, hemispherical, capsule small, ellipsoid, echinate by acute tubercles, glabrous; its subcells generally two-seeded, seeds around winged.

The leaves are minutely dotted, but the dots rather concealed and not transparent. The capsules deserve notice for the strong aromatic scent by which they are pervaded.

Let us leave consideration of the genus Flindersia for a moment.

The tree was first discovered by Mitchell at the St. George's Bridge, on the Balonne River (depicted in his Journey of an Expedition into the Interior of Tropical Australia). At P. 384 of that work he speaks of —

A new Elæodendron with small panicles of white flowers, formed a forest tree 20 feet high, remarkable for its spotted bark.

  ― 212 ―

Then follows a brief botanical description. One of the original specimens collected by Mitchell is before me as I write. The label reads -" 1846, Novr. Camp. 84, sub- tropical New Holland, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. L. Mitchell," and then Elæodendron maculosum in Lindley's handwriting. The fruit was unknown at the time.

The plant is a Flindersia, as already explained. If it were a mere question of F. Strzeleckiana, F.v.M., and F. maculata, F.v.M., as a specific name, then F. Strzeleckiana must be adopted, as it has a precedence of a few weeks. The Berlin rule of nomenclature No. 7note has been followed by Bentham. in this case, intentionally or not. Its first specific name was maculosum (as Elæodendron) and at present I call the plant F maculosa, F.v.M., ex. Benth., in B.Fl. i, 388.

Early Growth of the Tree

— In its early stage it forms a tangled mass of long thin branches. These branches are not spinous or prickly, but form a hedge, so that while stock (chiefly sheep) prune the peripheral branches they cannot eat the whole of. them. As growth advances, a leading shoot shows itself and is pro- tected by the branchy entanglement which encircles the main stem for several feet. By degrees these tangled branches atrophy and leave more or less of the stout main stem with its characteristic blotchy or spotted bark. Sometimes the tangled branches persist for a considerable period near the ground, sometimes the stem is clean and the tangled mass is several feet up. In some cases the portion near the ground, in others that several feet above it, alone persists; in fact different trees show much variation.

The life history of the trees is excellently shown in the accompanying three photographs by Mr. W. S. Campbell, which are taken from the Agricultural Gazette for November, 1899, p. 1167.


— During periods of drought sheep become exceedingly fond of the leaves of this tree, which they greedily devour., as well as the twigs up to the size of a goose-quill, and hence the tree is in danger of extermination, as it has not the recuperative power of some trees. This tree in particular should only be pollarded. Nature's method of protecting it from browsing animals has already been alluded to.

Mr. R. W. Peacock says:—note

The "Leopard Tree" is very much prized for its fodder value, both cattle and sheep being very fond of it. It is one of the few which cattle thrive upon, and I have known milking cows fed almost solely upon it to give a fair quantity of milk. It is very easily recognised owing to its spotted appearance, which is due to the outer bark falling off in patches. It is fast becoming scarce owing to the partiality of stock for it. During its young stage the tree throws out a lot of angular lateral branches, which protect it in some measure.

I have heard some people speak disparagingly of this tree, but upon extensive inquiries I find that their prejudices have not been substantiated, it being held in high esteem by those who feed very extensively upon it. It does not supply the quantity of foliage that many of the others do, although attaining the height of about 40 feet.

  ― 213 ―

Leopard Tree (Flindersia Maculosa: First Stage of Growth; Second Stage; Mature Tree

  ― 214 ―

Mr. F. B. Guthrie has given in the Agricultural Gazette the following analysis of leaves:—

Water   11.70 
Ash   3.42 
Fibre   11.43 
Ether extract (oil, etc.)  3.92 
Albumenoids   9.31 
Carbo-hydrates   30.22 
Nutrient value   48 l/4 
Albuminoid ratio   1:4 1/4 
Tannin (Oak bark)   2.9 

The young leaves are very aromatic, and the oil-dots may be plainly seen, showing the affinity to Rutacæ as already pointed out by Engler.


— The fruit when quite ripe tends to be flat like a five-pointed star. It is reddish brown externally. The fruit depicted is just opening io shed its winged seeds.


— Its characteristic appearance has already been alluded to.


— This is a small tree, and not important as a timber. At the same time it is used to a small extent. The timber is used for shingles, staves of tallow casks, and pick-handles. — (Hill). It is of a bright yellow colour when fresh, and exceedingly tough. Unlike many other timbers in the and western districts of New South Wales it is very elastic, and is, therefore, used for the poles and shafts of drays, buggies, etc. A writer says, "It is white and very light, and is used by the blacks for making their ‘heilamans’ or shields. For all other purposes it is utterly worthless." Others say, "No good except for bullock-yokes." I saw it made into tool-handles at Bourke. In the rough state (i.e., with the bark on) it is used for fencing, but it is useless for building purposes, as a coleopterous insect soon destroys it. About Wilcannia, N.S.W., it is, however, considered very durable by some, when sawn and used for inside work.


— This is probably the tree referred to by Mitchell, in the following passage:

In the ground beyond the plains (near the Darling) . . . . and an Acacia, with a white stem, and spotted bark, there grows to a considerable size, and produces much gum. Indeed, gum acacia abounds in these scrubs, and when the country is more accessible, may become an article of commerce. — (Three Expeditions, 1. 201)

For an account of the gum arabic from this tree. one of our best soluble gums, see the following paper.note Dr. Lauterer also gives an analysis of this gum.

During the summer months large masses, of a clear amber colour, exude from the stem and branches. It makes good adhesive mucilage, has a splendid taste, and is eaten by the aborigines. It is commonly used by bushmen as a remedy in diarrhoea.

  ― 215 ―

Two samples have been examined by me, and the following is an account of them. In view of the scarcity of good gum-arabic, it would be a useful addition to our raw products if abundant supplies of it could be obtained. I have not heard of a gum being yielded by any other Australian species of Flindersia in quantity.

Sample I. — From between the Lachlan and Darling Rivers, N.S.W. A most valuable gum. It is in pieces as pigeons' eggs, and I have seen a piece half as large as an emu egg, clear and of excellent quality, with only a small portion of bark at the place of attachment to the tree. In parts of the interior it is said to be fairly abundant. In some cases it remains in the liquid state on the trees fox. some little time before hardening, or else exudes very rapidly, for it is frequently brought to Sydney in pieces as long as an ordinary earthworm, and of the same average diameter.

It dissolves readily and completely in cold water. It hardly appears to affect the transparency and absence of colour of pure water. In this respect it may be ranked very closely to picked Turkey gum-arabic. It possesses the faint cloudiness which an aqueous solution of gum-arabic soon assumes.


— Height 20 to 40 feet, with a stem diameter of 12 to 18 inches.


— This is a dry country species. It occurs only in New South Wales and Queensland. ln our own State it is found over a large area of the Western Division ' e.g., in the vicinity of the Darling, Lachlan, Bogan, Macquarie, Castlereagh, and other inland rivers. I have it from a number of localities, but would be glad to hear of it from others in order to construct a " curving boundary" of its range.

As regards Queensland, Bailey only records F. maculosa from St. George, and F. Strzleckiana from "Brigalow Scrubs of the Leichhardt district and other inland parts."


Plate 39: The Leopard Wood (Flindersia maculasa, F.v.M.) Lithograph by M. Flockton

  • A. Flower, side view.
  • B. Flower looked at from above.
    • a. Petal.
    • b. Anther.
    • c. Disc.
    • d. Ovarium.
    • e. Stigma.
  • C. Portion of flower.
    • a. Filament.
    • b. Disc.
    • c. Ovarium.
    • d. Stigma.
  • D. Anther, front and back view.
  • E. Section through ovarium.
  • F. Calyx.
  • G. Fruit (capsule) in act of dehiscence.
  • H. A valve of the capsule.
  • I. Winged seed.

Footnotes Issue No. 37

Supplementary Material Added at the End of Volume 2

No. 37. Part X.

Flindersia maculosa, F.v.M.


(Natural Order MELIACEÆ.)

Synonyms. — See vol. i, p. 210.

In Catal. Queensland Forestry Museum, 1904, there is quoted a Flindersia Strzeleckiana, var. latifolia, — I do not know on what authority, and the following notes are given concerning it: —

Not plentiful, but trees are often met with in southern coastal scrubs, usually in steep rugged country.

A rather small tree, having a grey and dark-brown spotted (leopard-like) bark. Wood yellow, close-grained, very tough and durable. It much resembles Crow's Ash (Flindersia).

Chief Uses. — Not well known, and, consequently, not much used at present, but is, no doubt, very suitable for general building purposes. It bends well, and would make good staves for casks.

Specimens of the opposite leaved form were collected by Mr. R. Etheridge, at Dunlop Station, Louth, New South Wales.

Early growth of the tree. — See vol. i, p. 212.

I have drawn attention to the interesting dimorphism in this species.

In sending me a sketch of Fraxinus oxycarpa, an Ash whose early growth is remarkably like that of Flindersia maculosa, Dr. L. Trabut, of Algiers, gives me the following note. This particular form of dimorphism would appear to be peculiar to desert plants.

We have also Fraxinus dimorpha of the Mountains of the South, which go to 1,700 — 2,200 metres (5,525 — 7,150 feet). It is, I believe, desert-loving, but its growth is very slow. It remains in the state of a spinous bush for fifteen or twenty years, then from the centre of the bush there rises a tree with leaves very different (dimorphic). The indigenes utilise it for cattle-feed.

Supplementary Material Added to Volume 3

No. 37. Part X. Flindersia maculosa, F.v.M, THE LEOPARD WOOD. (Family MELIACEAE.)

Aboriginal Name. — See vol. i, p. 210. "Bocalla."- (A. W. Mullen, Bourke.)

Leaves.- See, vol. i, p. 212. Edible for stock. Stock eat the small sticks of Leopard Wood, and if its use is prolonged, pith balls are developed in the sheep's stomach.- (A. W. Mullen, Bourke, per favour of C. J. McMaster Chairman, Western Lands Board.)

Timber — See vol. i, p. 214. Wood sometimes used for shafts. Makes good tables when sawn and well-seasoned, but subject to boring insects. Ornamental tree; will stand Iopping. Very good for mallets. — (R. J. Dalton, Wanaaring.)

White, soft wood, has the same characteristics as Whitewood (Atalaya hemiglauca). — (A. W. Mullen )


"Leopard tree," Coolabah, near Bourke, March, 1904. — (R. W. Peacock.)

Mr. C. J. McMaster furnishes the following information:-

Leopard Wood, also called Bocalla, Fort Bourke, near Bourke.

Plate 1 shows — in the central figure — the stage of growth before reaching maturity, and the smaller tree on the right a still earlier stage. Plate 2 shows a matured tree.

Photograph 1 illustrates the second stage of growth, and is more characteristic than the photograph given at p. 213, vol. i, of this work. Photograph 2 shows the mature tree with more abundant foliage than that shown at p. 213.

Supplementary Material Added To Volume 4

No. 37. Part X. See also vols. ii, p. 201; iii, p. 165.

Flindersia maculosa, F.v.M. THE LEOPARD WOOD. (Family MELIACEÆ)


Photo showing early stages of growth of the Leopard Wood tree. See vols. i, p. 213; iii, p. 165

These trees grow in large numbers at Lightning Ridge, about 40 miles westerly from Collarenebri, where the above photograph was taken. — (C. J. McMaster, photo.)

Supplementary Material Added With Volume 6

No. 37. Part X. See also vols. ii, P. 201 ; iii, p. 165; iv. p. 164.

Flindersia maculosa F.v.M.


(Family MELIACEÆ.)


Leopard Wood Trees, Collarenebri

An interesting photograph by Mr. S. Jackson, at Cambo Cambo, Collarenebri District, N.S.W. showing the three stages of growth of the Leopard Wood Trees. Mr. Jackson adds the note:-

"The middle tree is full grown, though they grow much larger and it contains two different species of Loranthus flowering on separate limbs, the top clusters are Loranthus Quandong Lindl., and the thin stemmed hanging and lowest cluster is Loranthus linearifolius Hook. f."