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No. 55: Heterodendron oleæfolilum,


The Western Rosewood.

(Natural Order SAPINDACEÆ.)

Botanical description.

— Genus Heterodendron, Desf.

Flowers. — Regular, usually hermaphrodite.

Calyx. — Broadly cup-shaped, very shortly and irregularly toothed.

Petals. — None.

Disk. — Small.

Stamens. — 6 to 15, inserted within or upon the disc; anthers nearly sessile, longer than the calyx.

Ovary. — 2- to 4-lobed, 2- to 4-celled, with 1 ovule in each cell ; style short, with an obtuse lobed stigma.

Fruit. — Of 1 or 2, rarely 3 or 4, coriaceous or hard lobes, indehiscent.

Seed. — Half-immersed in an arillus; testa crustaceous; cotyledons thick, flexuose.

Shrubs or small trees.

Leaves. — Simple, entire or lobed.

Flowers. — Small, in short terminal, slightly-branched panicles, often reduced to simple racemes.

Botanical description.

— Species, H. oleæfolium, — Desf. in Hem. Mus. Par. iv, 8, t. 3.

A tall shrub or small tree, the young shoots hoary or glaucous with a minute silky pubescence.

Leaves. — Linear, lanceolate or narrow oblong, rarely almost obovate, acute or obtuse, 2 to 4 inches long, quite entire, narrowed into a very short petiole, coriaceous, and sometimes very rigid.

Panicles. — Usually few flowered and much shorter than the leaves.

Calyx. — Broadly cup-shaped, varying from 1 1/2 to nearly 3 lines diameter.

Ovary. — Usually 3- or 4-celled, densely tomentose.

Fruit. — Of 1, 2, or very rarely 3 or 4, nearly globular lobes, 3 or 4 lines diameter. — (DC. Prod. ii, 92; F. Muell. Pl. Vict. i, 90). The Queensland specimens have smaller and more glabrous flowers than the more southern ones, with the ovary 2-carpellary. The north-western and some of the western ones have much broader leaves and more abundant flowers than the eastern. — (B.Fl. i, 469)

Botanical Name.

— Heterodendron. Greek, heteros, variable, and dendron, tree, probably in allusion to the foliage; oleæfolium, Latin olea, an olive-tree, folium, a leaf, some leaves reminding one somewhat of an olive leaf.

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Vernacular Names.

— Perhaps most commonly called "Rosewood" in the west, but it should have the prefix "Western," to avoid confusion with the well-known Rosewood of the coast. It is sometimes called "Emu Bush," owing to emus feeding upon the seeds; Dogwood. — (P. Corbett.)

Aboriginal Names.

— "Jiggo" of those of the Murrumbidgee, and "Berrigan" (of which "Behreging" is an old spelling). — (Kidston.) "Mindra" of some South Australian aborigines. — (Max Koch.)


— It is one of our fodder trees. "It yields a fair quantity of moderately good forage, eaten both by cattle and sheep." — (R. W. Peacock.)

Both sheep and cattle feed greedily upon it. It is difficult to kill, springing from the roots when cut down, and one of the best for sheep feed. — (S. Dixon, S.A.) Good cattle-feed; horses will not eat it. — (P. Corbett, Paldrumatta Bore, vid Wilcannia, N.S.W.)

Mr. F. B. Guthrie in Agric. Gazette, October, 1899, has published analyses of the leaves with respect to their fodder value.

Water.  Ash.  Fibre.  Ether extract (oil, etc.).  Albumenoids.  Carbohydrates.  Nutrient Value.  Albumenoid ratio.  Tannin (Oak Bark.) 
34.27  2.29  13.74  4.28  10.31  35.11  55  1:4 1/4  4.3 
12.27  4.84  16.36  2.20  15.75  48.58  69  1:3 1/2  3.7 


— The seeds, which are covered with a red fleshy atillus, are eaten by emus and also by the aborigines.


— Hardly a timber-tree, its principal use being that of a fodder.

Timber very hard and heavy; used for rollers and rolling-pins. It is of a yellowish colour, with a black or dark-brown heart. It might be suitable for wood-engraving. Specific gravity of wood, .858 — (Mueller.)


— A small tree. It grows to a girth of 15 inches and more and up to a height of 20 feet (8. Dixon). Attains a height of 20 to 30 feet (R. W. Peacock).


— The localities given in the Flora Australiensis are as follows:—


Hammersley Range, near Nichol Bay (F. Gregory's Expedition).


Burdekin River (F. Mueller); Bowen River and Connor's Creek (Leichhardt).

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N.-W. interior (Strutt); Mount Brogden (A. Cunningham); plains of the Gwydir (Mitchell); Macquarie River and desert of the Darling and Murray, Herb. (F. Mueller).

It is one of our common western or dry-country species, not reaching the Dividing Range.


Mallee scrub, on the Rivers Murray, Wimmera, and Avoca (F. Mueller).


Lake Torrens, Flinders' Range, and Cooper's Creek (F. Mueller).


Dirk Hartog's Island (A. Cunningham); Murchison River (Oldfield).


Plate 52: The Western Rosewood (Heterodendron oleaefolium, Desf.). Lithograph by M. Flockton.

  • A. Flowering branch.
  • B. Fruiting branch.
  • C. Young flower.
  • D. Flower more advanced.
  • E. Part of flower, showing (a) calyx, (b) disc, (c) stamen, (d) style.
  • F. Vertical section of flower, stamens removed.
  • G. Stamens.
  • H. Fruit magnified.
  • J. Seed.

(Flowers from Brewarrina; fruits from Coolabab, N.S.W.)

Supplementary Material Added at the End of Volume 2

No. 55. Part XIII.

Heterodendron oleæfolium, Desf.


(Natural Order SAPINDACEÆ.)

Vernacular Names. — See vol. ii, p. 86.

Heterodendron oleæfolium is known here (Pangee to Nymagee) and to the eastward, towards Dubbo, both as Rosewood and Whitewood, the confusion having probably arisen in the following manner: — North of Nyngan and around Bourke the tree known as Whitewood is Atalaya hemiglauca; and the wood, which is not extremely hard for a western timber, is white right through. It is seldom to be found to the south of Nyngan, but the other tree, Heterodendron oleæfolium, is, and in young trees the wood is all white, while the bark somewhat resembles that of Atalaya hemiglauca, which partly accounts for the confusion. In mature trees of Heterodendron oleæfolium, which reach a height of 40 feet, with a diameter up to 2 feet, the centre wood turns red, which suggests the name of Rosewood, and it is exceedingly hard, though not tough. Near Nymagee I have known large trees of it called Ironwood, owing to the hardness of the wood. Through having white wood when young and red wood when mature, is another and probably the chief reason why the tree has the two names of Whitewood and Rosewood, for I found that on some holdings they are considered two species. Between Bourke and Cobar it is seldom much more than a shrub, with pale glaucous leaves, and is one of the plants known as Blue Bush, though on Gundabooka Station I have beard it called Rose Bush as well. — (R. H. Cambage, Proc. Linn. Soc. N.S. W, 1901, p. 200.)

"Cabbage Bush" and "Bullock Bush." — (Assistant Forester Andrew C. Loder, Broken Hill.)

Aboriginal Names. — See vol. ii, p. 86.

Its aboriginal name on the Lachlan is "Beernan," and towards the Bogan it is "Ruba." — (R. H. Cambage, loc. cit.)

Leaves. — See vol. ii, p. 86.

The leaves are much in request for fodder, and if the branches be lopped, young shoots will grow freely, giving the tree a very pretty appearance, although generally it is by no means an umbrageous species. — (R. H. Cambage, loc. cit.) The best fodder-tree of the west, superior to the Mulga (Acacia. anuera), on account of its fattening capabilities, and also because it will stand heavier lopping, being much harder than the "Mulga." — (Assistant Forester Andrew C. Loder, Broken Hill.)

Habitat. — See vol. ii, p. 86.

In New South Wales the species extends at least as far south as the Murrumbidgee, generally growing on good soil and avoiding rocky situations. . . . On the Lachlan and about Trangie, on the Western railway line, are places where it seems to attain its greatest size. — (R. H. Cambage, loc. cit.)

Additional localities in the National Herbarium, Sydney, are: — Page River, Scone district, the most easterly locality recorded (J.H.M.); Mt. Dangar, Gungal, leaves rather broader and greener than in the western specimens (J. L. Boorman) Narrabri (J.H.M.).

Supplementary Material Added to Volume 3.

No. 55. Part XIII. Heterodendron oleaefolium, Desf. THE WESTERN ROSEWOOD. (Family SAPINDACEAE.)


"Western Rosewood," Coonamble Park. - (C. J. McMaster.)

Supplementary Material Added With Volume 6.

No. 55. Part XIII. See also vol. iii, p. 168.

Heterodendron oleæfolium





"Bunary Tree" (Heterodendron oleæfolium). Cambo Cambo, Collarenebri District, N.S.W. (Photo, S.W. Jackson.)

Heterodendron oleæfolium. (Photo, H. Billington, Moree, N.S.W.)

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