Seeds to Success

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Podocarpus elatus is also known as Illwarra Plum is also called Brown Pine and Plum Pine. Podocarpus is an ancient Gondwana genus that occurs on several continents with the Illawarra Plum being local to New South Wales and Queensland subtropical, riverine and littoral rainforests. Though their first few years are often slow growing, when they start to grow taller they will surprise you with their sudden rapid growth and can reach as high as 40 metres though in many parts of Australia, they will reach no taller than 5 metres. The Podcarpus genus does not have seed cones like other conifers but instead has a fleshy seed with the actual seed that gets planted in the ground being on the outside. This cleverly evolved plant genus realised that when a bird took its big fleshy irresitible pine tasting fruit away, it would also carry the attached seed to plant in the earth after it dropped what remained of the yummy fleshy swollen seed stem. Being dioecious, you will need to plant three plants to ensure fruiting as male and female plants are needed for the fruiting to happen. Importantly, if you live in a fire prone area and need a fire break, Illawarra Pine (like the Bunya Pine) is fire retardant so may help protect your house from flying embers. Early European settlers also delighted in the fruits of the Illawarra Plum whose wood was used to make piano keys, table tops, furniture, packing cases and kitchen utensils. They can be planted in both full sun or part shade but do best in their initial years with filtered light. They are drought tolerant once established. They are first line of salt tolerant and do best with soils that have drainage so fork around clay soils or add gypsum. When cooking with the plums, use stainless steel pots and pans to avoid the bitterness that often comes when using aluminium. It goes almost without saying that many species of insects, butterflies and fauna have an association with this plant primarily because of its fruit, currawongs especially.

Podocarpus elatus (Illawarra Plum, Brown Plum, Plum Pine)

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