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No. 36: Albizzia Pruinosa,


A Stinkwood

(Natural Order LEGUMINOSÆ.)

Botanical description

— Genus, Albizzia, Durazz.

Calyx. — Campanulate or tubular, 5- or rarely 4-toothed.

Corolla. — 5- or rarely 4-lobed, with a cylindrical tube.

Stamens. — Indefinite, usually numerous and long, united at the base in a tube enclosing the ovary.

Pod. — Linear or oblong, straight or nearly so, flat, thin, rarely coriaceous, indehiscent or opening without elasticity in 2 valves.

Seed. — Usually orbicular, along the centre of the pod; funicle filiform.

Trees or shrubs, without prickles.

Leaves. — Twice pinnate, with a gland on the petiole below the pinnæ, and others between or below some or all of the pinilæ, and leaflets.

Flowers. — In globular heads or rarely cylindrical spikes, usually hermaphrodite.

Stamens. — White or pink, rarely yellow, much longer than in Acacia. — (B.Fl. ii, 421).

Bentham (B.Fl. ii, 422) places this tree under Pithecolobium. I follow Mueller in placing it under Albizzia. See an important paper by the latternote where it seems fully proved that the Australian species come under Albizzia. Whether or no, the South American species with fleshy pods, hence eaten by apes and monkeys, should be placed under Pithecolobium (Greek pithes an ape).

Bentham distinguishes between the two genera as follows:—

Pod flat and thin, straight scarcely falcate. — Albizzia.

Pod curved or twisted, 2-valved, and often reddish or pulpy inside, or separating into indehiscent articles. — Pithecolobium.

and his reasons in favour of separating the two genera, as given in B.Fl. ii, 421, should be perused.

Botanical description

— Species, A. pruinosum, F.v.M., in Journ. Bot. x, 9.

A beautiful tree, the young branches, foliage, and inflorescence rusty with a short pubescence, or glabrous.

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Pinnæ. — Very irregularly in one or two pairs, with or without an odd one, the petiole and each rhachis varying from 1 to 6 inches long; leaflets usually three or four pairs on the terminal pinnæ, but very irregular in number, size, and shape, mostly broadly oblong or rhomboidal and acuminate, rarely very obtuse, the larger ones often 2 or 3 inches long, but mostly smaller.

Peduncles. — Two or three together in the upper axils or shortly racemose.

Flowers. — Numerous, in globular umbels, on pedicels of about 2 lines.

Calyx. — Small, shortly toothed.

Corolla. — Fully 2 lines long.

Pod. — Several inches long, 7 to 8 lines broad, flat but much curved and twisted, the upper inner margin thickened and continuous; the outer one much sinuate and undulate, the valves smooth and reddish inside.

Seeds. — Ovate transverse.

Funicle. — Rather thick, but terete, folded under the seed. — (B.Fl. ii, 423, as Pithecolobium).

Botanical Name

— Albizzia, in honour of an old and noble Florentine family — the Albizzia — to whom the genus was dedicated by Durazzini, in the year 1772; pruinosum, Latin, frosty, or liable to frost, hence in botanical descriptions, having a whitish or frosted appearance, which the leaves of this tree sometimes have.

Vernacular Name

— It is sometimes called, "Stinkwood" from the sour and rather unpleasant smell of the freshly-cut timber.

Aboriginal Names

— "Malla Waundie" of those of the Clarence and Richmond; "Talingora" of some Queensland aborigines.


— Pithecolobium umbrosum and Acacia umbrosum, A. Cunn., in the Cat. N.S.W. Products for the London Exhibition of 1862. Acacia sapindoides, A. Cunn., ex. Sweet, Hort. Brit. ed. iii, 198; Hill, in Cat. Queensland Exhibits, Lond. Exhib., P. 30.


— Wood of a light yellow colour, becoming brown near the centre; of a very disagreeable odour when newly cut. Wood soft, not durable.

In the Cat. of N.S.W. Timbers, London Exhib., 1862, it is stated that the timber is hard and occasionally used for carpenters' tools. Hill speaks of it as soft, but tough. The fact of the matter is it is not an important timber tree at all, being only occasionally used for economic purposes.


— The gum of this species is only partially soluble. It is rare and is not likely to be of commercial importance. Following is a notenote on a specimen:—

This sample is in small amber-coloured pieces and is very much admixed with woody matter. It is fairly transparent, and breaks with a bright fracture. It is only partly soluble in water, the soluble portion being arabin. it forms a fairly adhesive liquid. It gives no precipitate with ferric chloride, nor does it form a jelly, and only slightly darkens when heated with dilute soda. The unsoluble portion is soluble in dilute alkalis, and is precipitated as arabin on acidifying with acetic acid and adding alcohol.

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— It is but a small tree, say 30 to 50 feet high, and with a stem diameter of 6 to 12 inches.


— It is a brush tree, being a denizen of dense brushes. It is confined to the eastern parts of New South Wales and Queensland. In the Flora Australiensis it is recorded as far south as Kiama and the Illawarra. Mr. Baeuerlen has collected it on the Shoalhaven. It is not very rare on our northern rivers. Dallachy collected it at Rockhampton, Queensland, which appears to be the most northerly locality so far.


Plate 38: A Stinkwood (Albizzia pruinosa, F.v.M.) Lithograph by M. Flockton

  • A. Flowering twig.
  • B. Individual flower, showing stamens and pistil.
  • C. Calyx and corolla.
  • D. Stamens.
  • E. Legume (pod) showing the frequently circular twisting.
  • F. Pod, showing seeds.
  • G. Seed, with funicle.
  • H. Seed (enlarged), the shading round the margin rather too much accentuated.

Footnotes Issue No. 36

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