Alchornea ilicifolia (EUPHORBIACEAE); Native holly

Image: Habit
Image: Foliage and fruit
Image: Fruit closeup
Image: Foliage

Image: Habit

Alchornea
Photo: Robert Whyte
Straggling shrub to 6m high in drier rainforest or on the boundary of open forest, from the coast to the escarpment ranges and upper Hunter Valley; north from the Illawarra region NSW. Not found in the very driest of scrubs. In the open it is usually compact, but can be leggy under a canopy.

Branchlets can be dotted with elongated lenticels. Strong sunlight intensifies the red new growth.

Useful as an understorey plant in rainforest plantings. Grown in gardens for its attractive, holly-like foliage, enjoys well-drained soil, extra nutrients and mulch but can tolerate neglect. Sooty mould can be a problem.

Image: Foliage and fruitBack to top

Alchornea
Photo: Robert Whyte
Leaves broad-elliptic to rhombic or obovate, mostly 2-8 cm, 2-5 cm wide, stiff, prominently veined, margins with 2-4 pairs of spine-tipped teeth, smooth; petiole 1-3 mm long.


Image: Fruit closeupBack to top

Alchornea
Photo: Robert Whyte
Fruit is a green, then brown, three lobed capsule around 7mm in diameter splitting to reveal one seed. Ripe September-November or throughout the year.

Strangely hard to propagate from seed, as it self sows easily. This suggest dormancy. Cuttings strike easily.

An exceptionally hardy plant, though can be slow growing. Useful as an understorey plant in rainforest plantings.

Image: Foliage Back to top

Alchornea
Photo: Robert Whyte
The surface of the leaves are hard and shiny, helping them avod moisture loss by transpiration.

Alchornea after Stanesby Alchorne 1727-1800, a collector of British plants; ilicifolia from Latin “ilex” the great scarlet (holly) or Holm oak, Quercus ilex, and “folium” leaf because of the holly-like leaves.

Food plant for the Common Albatross butterfly Appias paulina ega.