Wild quince

Wild quince

Are you looking for a nicely shaped, small tree to fill a corner of your garden that will provide a habitat for understory plants such as ferns and orchids? The wild quince (Guioa semiglauca) could be the ideal selection. It is a versatile, fast-growing evergreen tree growing to about 6m in cultivation, with a rounded canopy. The leaves are a dark green on the upper surface and green-grey on the lower surface, creating a colourful display on windy days. They are also the food source for the caterpillars of the discolor noctuid moth. The trunk has smooth, grey bark that is often covered with lichen with the lower trunk forming flutes with age. This is an adaptable rainforest species that will grow in most soil types and in full sun or semi-shade.

Although this tree provides an attractive backdrop of green in the garden, it becomes a spectacular display during spring when it comes into flower. This process starts slowly and continues throughout spring culminating in massed sprays of tiny cream flowers, with a delicate perfume, arising from the leaf axils. These attract the tiny brown and orange butterflies (Hypocista metirius) in October and many insects in their search for nectar. They, in turn, attract small insectivorous birds. Flowering is followed by the production of a green fruit comprised of thee lobes that split to reveal the dark brown seed enclosed by an orange fleshy aril in January/February. The fruit attract a variety of fructivorous birds.

In addition to their place in the garden as a wildlife habitat, the wild quince is an ideal pioneer plant in rainforest regeneration areas due to its adaptability and hardiness. It is found naturally from northern NSW to northern Queensland, from the coast to the highlands, in a range of soil types. Wild quince is frost tolerant and mildly drought tolerant. The bark was used by Indigenous Australians as a fish poison.

Guioa semiglauca
Guioa semiglauca. Photograph by Heather Knowles.

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