Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants - Online edition

Cardwellia sublimis F.Muell.

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Flowers. © Barry Jago
Flowers. © B. Gray
Fruit. © Stanley Breeden
Dehiscing fruit and seeds. © W. T. Cooper
Leaves and fruit. © B. Gray
Scale bar 10mm. © CSIRO
Cotyledon stage, epigeal germination. © CSIRO
10th leaf stage, with cotyledons still present. © CSIRO
Cotyledons and 5 leaves. © CSIRO

Mueller, F.J.H. von (1865) Fragmenta Phytographiae Australiae 5: 24. Type: In montibus silvaticis circum urbem Cardwell portus Rockinghams Bay frequens. J. Dallachy?.

Common name

Northern Silky Oak; Oak, Bull; Silky Oak; Oak, Silky; Oak; Lacewood; Bull Oak; Oak, Northern Silky


Oak grain in the wood. Blaze with a lace-like pattern corresponding to the oak grain in the wood. Dead bark layer generally thin, often peeling off fairly readily.


Oak grain in the twigs. Numerous circular, pale brown lenticels on the twigs. Leaflets about 9-18 x 4-7 cm, with a brownish or silvery sheen on the underside. Young partly expanded shoots look like miniature, dark, partly clenched human hands.


Flowers in pairs in the inflorescence, each flower sessile, but pairs of flowers pedunculate. Tepals about 10-18 mm long. Hypogynous glands four (two large & two small). Ovules about 10-14 per ovary.


Follicles very large, about 8-11 cm long, woody, persisting for a while on the tree and subsequently on the ground beneath the tree. Seeds with a marginal wing about 5 mm wide. Seed + wing 6-7 x 2.5-3 cm.


Cotyledons resemble butterfly wings, about 20-30 x 70-80 mm, petioles about 2-4 mm long. A number of veins radiate from the petiole. At the tenth leaf stage: leaf blade elongate-elliptic to elongate-obovate, apex acuminate. Seed germination time 14 to 24 days.

Distribution and Ecology

Endemic to NEQ, widespread throughout the area. Altitudinal range from sea level to 1200 m. Grows in well developed rain forest on a variety of sites and produces one of the most decorative and most useful timbers in northern Queensland.

Natural History & Notes

This is one of the most useful timber trees in North Queensland rainforests. The timber can be used as a beautiful cabinet wood which is easy to work, cuts and polishes well to reveal a beautiful oak grain on both back-cut and quarter-cut boards. It is also a useful and moderately durable wood and many homes in North Queensland were largely constructed of this species. Many parts of the house utilize C. sublimis from the framing to the interior and exterior cladding. Attempts to grow this species in plantations are not encouraging.

Unripe fruit is eaten by Sulphur Crested Cockatoos.

A very good timber for the manufacture of window frames, a useful carving timber. Swain (1928).

Although very large in nature, open cultivated trees have excellent potential for parks and street trees. The showy panicles of cream flowers are followed by distinctive large fruits.

Wood specific gravity 0.56 Cause et al. (1989).

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