This small tree is the brown ripples (Aglaia australiensis). It has a restricted distribution, occurring from the Tully region north to the Mulgrave River. (See the map below for pooled specimen data from Australian herbaria.) Even though it has such a limited range, it is reasonably common around here. The one I've photographed for this post is at the edge of my drive way. [Note added in surprise: This species was only described in 1992.]
|Flower buds in early October|
At the end of the Dry, the flower buds appeared minty green among the chocolate brown stems. They looked almost good enough to eat.
But I resisted.
|Flowers in late October.|
Three weeks later, the flowers had opened as far as they ever would. (When I first saw them, I thought they were berries.) Presumably, insects are the chief pollinators of this species.These are not showy flowers.
|Fruit in December|
Brown ripples is a prolific fruiter with a good flower to fruit ratio. (And you can tell where the tree gets its common name. Yeah, we're big on plain labelling here. It was probably somebody's second choice after tamarind.)
The insects are fond of this species at all stages of its life cycle. If it's not aphids and lerps, it's ants and wasps
|I was trying to make this new growth look like a hand reaching out, Kuato style. But it's much too plant-looking for that. (Oh, and let me I apologise for that entirely gratuitous Total Recall reference.)|
Almost as soon as they unfurl, the large, glossy, dark green compound leaves are colonised by lichen and moss. The stem seems to be wrapped in velvet. This is a tree that everything loves. I'm not big on horticulture, but I think this would make a nice specimen tree in the right garden — especially in an area where it wouldn't get covered in mini-epiphytes the moment it poked out its cotyledons. I've collected some pods and will see how it goes in a pot. At least I won't have to worry about watering it.
|Distribution of Aglaia australiensis |
© 2009 Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria Inc.
By the way, I'm glad I invested in the Coopers' encyclopaedic Fruits of the Australian Tropical Rainforest. It costs a small fortune, but it is invaluable to a botanical novice like me. One day I will be familiar enough with the planty stuff to be able to use the key, but until then I am more than happy to...er...leaf through the 560-plus pages of illustrations to identify the fruit. You can see Bill Cooper's illustration of the brown ripple (and read more about the plant) here.