Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants - Online edition

Pisonia grandis R.Br.

Shrub (woody or herbaceous, 1-6 m tall)
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Scale bar 10mm. © CSIRO
Cotyledon stage, epigeal germination. © CSIRO
10th leaf stage. © CSIRO

Brown, R. (1810) Prodromus Florae Novae Hollandiae : 422. Type: [given by Stemmerik, l.c. as R. Brown s.n. (BM: B, isotype) from the North Coast of Australia (Iter Australiense)].

Common name

Cabbage Tree; Gatae; Puatea; Pisonia


Usually grows into a tree but can flower and fruit as a shrub.


Leaf blades quite large, about 16-30 x 7-16 cm, petioles about 2-5 cm long. Lateral veins about 7-9 on each side of the midrib, forming loops inside the blade margin. Twigs marked by conspicuous leaf scars.


Perianth funnel-shaped, about 4 mm long, outer surface marked by five rows of black glands. Woolly hairs visible between the perianth lobes. Stamens about 6-10, slightly exserted. Ovary glabrous, unequal-sided, seated on a stalk or stipe about 2 mm long. Stigma fimbriate.


Fruits elongated to club-shaped, about 6-12 x 2-3 mm, 5-ribbed, each rib bearing a row of sticky prickles about 1 mm long. Fruit resembles the head of a mace. Outer surface of the fruit (between the ribs) hairy. Seed about 9-10 x 1.5-2 mm.


Cotyledons orbicular to almost reniform, about 15-21 x 16-31 mm, margins often irregularly crenate, petioles about 7 mm long. First pair of leaves ovate, pubescent on both the upper and lower surfaces. At the tenth leaf stage: stem clothed in very short pale brown appressed hairs just visible with a lens. Seed germination time 13 to 25 days.

Distribution and Ecology

Occurs in NT, CYP, NEQ and CEQ. Altitudinal range quite small, usually close to sea level. Usually grows in closed forest on islands, particularly those largely composed of coral debris. Also occurs in the Indian Ocean islands, SE Asia, Malesia and the Pacific islands.

Natural History & Notes

This species occurs in quite dense almost pure stands of large trees on coral islands. The fruits are produced in great numbers. These islands are often inhabited by large numbers of sea birds particularly noddies which roost in the trees each night. At times the birds become covered with the sticky fruits and this has given rise to one of the common names viz. Birdlime Tree for this species.

Pisonia inermis Jacq., Selectarum Stirpium Americanarum Historia : 275(1763), Type: Habitat frequens in sylvaticis & fruticosis territori Carthagenensis.
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