Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants - Online edition

Planchonia careya (F.Muell.) R.Knuth

Shrub (woody or herbaceous, 1-6 m tall)
Click/tap on images to enlarge
Flower [not vouchered]. CC-BY J.L. Dowe
Fruit, two views and cross section. © W. T. Cooper
Cotyledon stage, epigeal germination. © CSIRO
10th leaf stage. © CSIRO

Knuth, R. (1939) Das Pflanzenreich Heft 105(1) : 56.

Common name

Cocky Apple; Cockatoo Apple; Billy Goat Plum; Apple, Cocky; Apple, Cockatoo; Plum, Billy Goat


Deciduous tree 4-15 m tall. Bark up to 2 cm thick, suberose, fissured, grey-brown to black.


Papery (papyraceous), glabrous, discolorous, glossy above, dull on lower surface, aging red; obovate to broadly ovate, the smallest leaves spathulate, 50-120 x 28-76 mm; apex emarginate to bluntly acuminate, tip obtuse; finely crenulate or sometimes almost entuire; base long attenuate; midrib flat above; lateral nerves in 9-12 pairs, forming indistinct loops inside the blade margin, angled at 60 degress to midrib; petiole 6-32 mm long.


Racemes with few, large flowers; pedicels puberulous, 5-20 mm long. Calyx tube green, 7-15 mm long; largest lobes 6-11 x 4-8 mm, the smallest 4-6 x 3-4.5 mm. Petals white, pink at the base, greenish on the back, 15-32 x 6-14 mm. Staminal tube 4-11 mm long; filaments ca. (90)120-170 per flower, 25-45 mm long. Style 35-70 mm long.


Fruits +/- ovoid to ellipsoid, smooth, about 50-96 mm long (including calyx lobes) x 18-37 mmw ide, calyx persistent. Seeds flat, about 5 x 4 mm, brown, embedded in a fibrous mesocarp.


Cotyledons linear-elliptic, about 5-15 mm long. At the tenth leaf stage: leaves +/- obovate, apex obtuse, base attenuate, margin crenate and undulate, leaf blade about 50-70 x 20-30 mm; midrib raised on the upper surface; stipules small and inconspicuous; petiole narrowly winged, the wings extending down the stem to the next leaf. Hypocotyl swollen, +/- carrot-like (Daucus carota). Seed germination time 10 to 13 days.

Distribution and Ecology

Occurs in WA, NT, CYP, NEQ, CEQ and southwards as far as coastal central Queensland. Altitudinal range from sea level to 600 m. Grows mainly in open forest but also found on the margins of rain forest and in monsoon forest. Also occurs in New Guinea.

Natural History & Notes

The bark of this species is a well known fish poison in North East Queensland.

Food plant for the larval stages of the Copper Jewel and Common Tit Butterfly. Common & Waterhouse (1981).

This species has been used as a fish poison. It may also have medicinal properties. The fruit has been reported as edible. (

The bark of this tree contains saponin, a chemical which makes a soap-like froth when boiled in, or shaken with, water. Cribb (1981).

Barringtonia australis Ewart & O.B.Davies, The Flora of the Northern Territory : 199(1917). Careya australis (Benth.) F.Muell., Systematic Census of Australian Plants : 60(1883). Barringtonia careya F.Muell., Fragmenta Phytographiae Australiae 5: 183(1865), Type: Between the Victoria River & Keppel Bay, F. Mueller s.n. Planchonia crenata Miers, Transactions of the Linnean Society of London, Botany ser. 2, 1 : 91(1875), Type: Cape Grafton, J. Banks & D. Solander; syn: BM; Carpentaria, R. Brown; syn: BM; Darwin, R. Schomburck 347; syn: K; Victoria R., F. Mue Cumbia australis Britten, Illustrations of the Botany of Captain Cook's Voyage Round the World 2 : t. 1(1901), Type: Cape Grafton, J. Banks & D. Solander; holo: BM. Careya arborea var. australis Benth., Flora Australiensis 3: 289(1867), Type: N. Australia. Brunswick Bay, N.W. coast, A. Cunningham; plains at the mouth of the Victoria river, F. Mueller; Islands of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Barringtonia arborea (Roxb.) F.Muell., Fragmenta Phytographiae Australiae 5: 184(1865). Careya arborea Roxb., Plants of the Coast of Coromandel 3 : 14(1820), Type: A native of the valleys amongst the mountains of the Northern Circars, as well as various other mountainous parts of India.
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