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Plant Profile: Acmena smithii Lilly Pilly

Acmena smithii is a distinct evergreen tree native to Australia, celebrated for its dense foliage, small white flowers, and vibrant berries.

Native to the eastern regions of Australia, this evergreen tree has carved its niche not just in rainforests and coastal areas but also in urban gardens across the country. It’s an extremely popular choice to use as a hedge plant.

With its characteristic dense foliage, clusters of white flowers, and vibrant berries, Acmena smithii offers both visual appeal and ecological benefits.

Whether you’re a gardener looking to introduce a resilient native plant into your backyard or someone curious about Australia’s unique flora, the following guide dives into everything you need to know about this popular tree.

Note: There are two types of plants that are referred to as Lilly Pillies: Acmena and Syzygium.

Family and Subfamily: MyrtaceaeMyrtoideae

The Myrtaceae family, commonly known as the Myrtle family, houses a diverse range of flowering plants. This vast group is mainly made up of evergreen shrubs or trees, boasting around 5,000 species.

In Australia, while the Eucalyptus or gum trees take the spotlight, the family also presents the likes of Callistemon (bottlebrushes), Melaleuca (paperbarks), and Leptospermum (tea trees). A key feature of these plants is the aromatic quality of their leaves and flowers, thanks to the oil glands they contain.

Spread across varied habitats like coastal areas and open forests, many of these plants have adapted to Australia’s fire-prone terrains.

Acmena smithii: Basic Information

  • Common Name: Lilly Pilly, Midjuburi (Cadigal)
  • Scientific Name: Acmena smithii
  • Origin: Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania
  • Family: Myrtaceae
  • Subfamily: Myrtoideae

Appearance and Features

Acmena smithii leave | Plant Profiles

Acmena smithii stands out as an evergreen tree, maintaining dense foliage throughout the year. In general, they can grow between 5-15 meters tall.

Their leaves are glossy and green, complemented by small white flowers that bloom during spring and summer. Following the flowering season, the tree produces small berries, predominantly in red or purple shades.

Natural Habitat

Native to Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales, and Tasmania, this Lilly Pilly flourishes in rainforests and coastal areas. It’s a plant that’s well-suited to the Australian environment and isn’t invasive.

Growing Acmena smithii Lilly Pilly

Acmena smithii flower | Plant Profiles
Photo by Raffi Kojian / Gardenology (cropped) / CC BY-SA 3.0

This tree has several desirable traits, making it a favourite among garden enthusiasts.

Growing Conditions

  • Soil: Prefers well-draining soil.
  • Water: Regular during dry spells.
  • Light: Full sun to part shade.
  • Climate: Adaptable, from cool to tropical. Frost may cause damage, but mature trees are drought-tolerant.

Planting Guide

Plant in spring or autumn, allowing 2-3 meters between each tree.

Care and Maintenance

Regular pruning during the late winter or early spring is beneficial. It helps maintain shape and get rid of any dead or unhealthy branches. Mulching around the base (avoiding the trunk) and occasional fertilising can further boost its health.

Pest and Disease Control

Aphids, psyllids, and scale insects can sometimes be a concern, as can fungal diseases. Treating with insecticidal soap or neem oil can help combat these pests, and fungicides can address fungal issues.

Acmena smithii Varieties

  1. Acmena smithii ‘Fire Screen’: Known for red new growth, turning green with maturity. Often used for hedging.
  2. Acmena smithii ‘Allyn Magic’: A dwarf variety, reaching about 1 metre. Bronze new growth that turns green.
  3. *Acmena smithii ‘*Sublime’: Lime green new growth with dense foliage. Resistant to Psyllids and Myrtle Rust. Grows to 5m high and is popular for screening and hedges.
  4. Acmena smithii ‘Cherry Surprise’: Medium-sized with leaves that turn deep cherry-red when young. Grows to 3m high x 1.5m wide.
  5. Acmena smithii ‘Minor’: Compact form with bronze new foliage maturing to green. Flowers in summer and produces pink fruit in autumn. Grows to 2-3m high x 1-2m wide. Perfect for hedges and screening.
  6. Acmena smithii ‘Hot Flush’: Ornamental with new growth, producing colours like burgundy, pink, lime, and bronze. Can be used for hedges, wind-breaks, and verges.
  7. Acmena smithii ‘Forest Flame’: Features bright pink new growth.

Special Features

What’s not to love? Attractive glossy leaves, delightful white flowers, and edible berries make this tree stand out. Plus, it’s versatile in shape and size, thanks to its response to pruning.

Wildlife and Pollinators

Lilly Pilly attracts a variety of wildlife, including birds, bees, and butterflies, thanks to its flowers and fruit.

Uses in the Garden and Beyond

Its dense foliage makes this Lilly Pilly perfect for hedges or screens. However, if not pruned, it can grow substantially. The berries, aside from being a wildlife treat, are used by humans for making jams, jellies, and sauces.

Environmental Benefits

Being drought-tolerant, it’s ideal for water-conserving gardens. It’s also a habitat and food source for local wildlife.

FAQs

Is the Acmena smithii berry edible?

Yes, the berries are edible and are often used to make jams, jellies, and sauces.

How often should I water Acmena smithii?

Regular watering is essential, especially during dry periods. However, be careful not to overwater to prevent root rot.

Can Acmena smithii tolerate frost?

It can handle frost but might experience some damage. It’s best to plant it in a protected location if frost is common in your area.

How tall can Acmena smithii grow?

Typically, it grows to a height of 5-15 meters. Regular pruning can manage its size.

How fast do Acmena smithii grow?

Acmena smithii typically exhibits a moderate to fast growth rate. Under ideal conditions, it can grow between 30 to 60 cm per year.

Photo of author

Linda Jones

Based in sunny Brisbane, Linda has a keen interest in ornamental plants. She firmly believes that gardens are as much about aesthetics as they are about functionality. Despite being a life-long gardener, she still enjoys learning about new plants and gardening techniques and sharing her discoveries with the Ultimate Backyard community. When she's not immersed in her garden, Linda loves reading and walking.

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