The soft green foliage and deep canopy of rainforest trees conjure a feeling of serenity in a garden. The red apple (Acmena ingens) is no exception. This tree is a native of northern New South Wales and Southern Queensland (as far north as Gympie) in highland areas, in what is commonly referred to as the Big Scrub community. Although it may grow to 40m in its natural environment of rich volcanic soil, it rarely reaches this height in cultivation where 10m is the average.
The elliptical leaves, that grow to about 14 cm long, start off red and turn green (darker on the top side) as they mature. The cylindrical trunk is greyish to fawn in colour and, as the tree ages, may form fluted buttresses at its base. Since the canopy is quite dense, this tree provides a myriad of places for a variety of wild life to live. Butterflies and bees are attracted to the panicles of cream flowers during November and December. The flowers are followed by large red fruit from May to September and these bring in a number of different birds that feed on the fruit and seed. At Mt. Glorious wompoo fruit doves, green catbirds, eastern rosellas, pied currawongs and topknot pigeons have been seen feeding on the fruit. Even better, the fruit makes delicious jams and preserves.
Although naturally growing in volcanic soils, this tree grows successfully in any slightly acidic to neutral soil, from clay to sandy loam, as long as there is moderate drainage. It grows in open sun to partly-shaded locations. Once well established, it has been shown to be drought resistant and will withstand light frosts. In large gardens, the red apple can be used as either a beautiful, symmetrical specimen tree or as a screening plant.