Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants - Online edition

Nauclea orientalis (L.) L.

Click/tap on images to enlarge
Flowers. © Barry Jago
Flowers. © Stanley Breeden
Leaves and Flowers. © B. Gray
Fruit, side view and cross section. © W. T. Cooper
Scale bar 10mm. © CSIRO
10th leaf stage. © CSIRO
Cotyledon stage, epigeal germination. © CSIRO

Linnaeus, C. von (1763) Species Plantarum ed. 2 : 243.

Common name

Cheesewood; Canary Cheesewood; Cape York Leichardt; Leichardt; Leichhardt Pine; Leichhardt Tree; Leichhardt's Pine; Pine, Leichhardt's; Soft Leichhardt; Yellow Cheesewood; Burr Tree; Canary-wood


Deciduous; leafless for a period in August or September. Dead bark orange to yellow when cut.


Leaves generally rather large, leaf blades about 15-30 x 10-18 cm. Stipules large and conspicuous, about 1-3.5 cm long, apex obtuse. Red glands, resembling insect eggs, attached to the inner surface of each stipule near the base.


Calyx tubes fused to one another to form a perfectly spherical head of flowers. Corolla tube longer than the lobes, corolla lobes about 2-3 mm long. Anthers +/- sessile, attached to the apex of the corolla tube. Style and stigma white, stigma +/- cylindrical or bullet-shaped.


Fruits about 4-5 cm diam., outer surface reticulately rugose. Seeds small, about 1.5-2 mm long, very numerous in each fruit. Testa finely reticulate.


Cotyledons ovate, about 3-4 mm long. At the tenth leaf stage: leaf blade elliptic, glabrous; stipules interpetiolar, large, foliaceous, conspicuous, oblong to obovate, apex obtuse. Seed germination time 4 to 20 days.

Distribution and Ecology

Occurs in WA, NT, CYP, NEQ, CEQ and southwards to south-eastern Queensland. Altitudinal range from sea level to 450 m. A characteristic tree of the gallery forests in northern Australia, but also grows in lowland rain forest particularly in swampy situations. Also occurs in Asia and Malesia.

Natural History & Notes

Fallen fruit eaten by Cassowaries. Cooper & Cooper (1994).

A useful carving timber (Swain (1928).

A large spreading and shady tree that is often cultivated. Flowers are in large ball-like heads and are strongly perfumed.

An infusion of the barks causes vomiting, and was used by north Queensland Aborigines to treat 'sore belly' and sometimes snakebite; at Bloomfield River, a decoction of the bark was used externally as an application for rheumatic pains. Cribb (1981).

Produces a useful, moderately durable, general purpose timber.

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

Cephalanthus orientalis L., Species Plantarum ed. 1 : 95(1753), Type: Lecto: Plate 338 in Hermanns Herbarium, BM. Fide Merrill (1915).
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