and Millaa Millaa areas. The area’s volcanic soils and high rainfall have produced some of
the most diverse tropical rainforest in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. These forests
traditionally provided a rich source of food, particularly in wetter months when animals were
difficult to hunt. Even today when the easy option is to shop in a supermarket, Ma:Mu people
gather and prepare these foods because it is still part of their culture and they enjoy eating
their traditional foods.
Bush tucker has also become big business. Restaurants are serving entire menus based on
Australian native foods and it is now possible to buy rainforest fruit foods in supermarkets.
Ma:Mu horticultural trainees at Innisfail TAFE are collecting wild rainforest fruits and
domesticating them to produce commercially viable fruits for farmers to harvest and sell.
Some of these plants are shown here.
A wide range of animals including possums, tree-kangaroos and many birds including the
endangered cassowary dine on these fruits. If you plant them on your property you will
probably attract wildlife to your backyard.
BEWARE! There are many poisonous plants in the rainforest. Rainforest Aboriginal Elders
are very concerned that adventurous naturalists may sample some bush tucker and poison
themselves. It is unwise to sample bush tucker unless you are absolutely certain what you’re
For more information
• Visit the Ma:Mu Bush Tucker Garden at Warrima Lakes, Innisfail
• Innisfail Campus Tropical North Queensland TAFE, PO Box 1453 Innisfail 4860 Phone (07)
• Society for Growing Australian Plants
Phone (07) 4042 1573
• Native Foods Association of FNQ Inc. PO Box 150 Malanda 4885 Mobile (0429) 121212
• Grow Your Own Bush Foods - Keith and Irene Smith, New Holland, 1999
• Wild Food Plants of Australia - Tim Low, Angus & Robertson, 1991
• A Guide to Traditional Aboriginal Rainforest Plant Use - The Kuku Yalanji, Mossman Gorge
Bamanga Bubu Ngadimunku Inc., 1995
The fruit illustrations were reproduced from Fruits of the Rainforest with the kind permission
of William and Wendy Cooper. This artwork will form part of an expanded volume of over
2000 rainforest fruits by the Coopers to be published in 2004.
Bush Tucker of the Wet Tropics
Wet Tropics Management Authority - Rainforest Explorer
Fruit up to 40 mm wide
This huge tree’s massive root system helps it to
survive in drier rainforests and beach areas in
Australia and Asia. Its fleshy fruit grow in big clusters
along the branches and trunk, with 2-3 crops from
May to Jan. Ripe fruit smells similar to commercial
figs and the mildly sweet flesh is edible fresh or dried.
Attractive to many birds and bats.
Blue Quandong - Elaeocarpus grandis
15-25 mm wide
Tree grows up to 45m and is found from NSW to New
Guinea. Its finely serrated leaves turn red before
falling to the ground. Trees tend to have two crops
between Aug and April. Separate the fruit’s bright
blue skin from the green flesh. It is best when slightly
over-ripe and soft, or it can taste a bit sharp. Inside is
a rough, woody stone containing up to five seeds.
Cherry Satinash - Syzygium luehmanii
7-10 mm wide
Also known as Riberry and Creek Cherry, this slow
growing tree reaches 35m and is found from the Wet
Tropics to northern NSW. It has flaky bark and bright
pink or red new leaf growth. Pink, pear-shaped fruit
3-4 cm long appear between Nov and March. The
tree is related to the clove tree from Indonesia. The
flesh tastes slightly spicy, making excellent jams or
sauces served with either meat or icecream.
40 x 35 mm
Tree grows to 25m, and is found in wet forests of the
south east Tablelands, Mt Lewis and lowland
Daintree. Fruits ripen from Nov to Feb. Fruits have a
blue skin with a dryish white flesh surrounding a hard
shell. Inside is an edible kernel that can be eaten raw
or roasted. The nuts also make a tasty addition to
cakes, biscuits and desserts. Also eaten by Musky
Rat-kangaroos and native rats.
50-80 x 30-40 mm
This tree grows up to 20m in drier monsoon forests of
Cape York, WA, NT, the Wet Tropics and as far south
as northern NSW. Its leaves have mostly dropped off
by the time the tree bears fruit around Oct-Nov. The
large orange or scarlet pod has a velvety surface and
splits open to release several dark, bluish-black
seeds. These delicious seeds have a nutty flavour
and can be eaten raw or cooked.
35-65 x 15-25 mm
This spreading tree grows to 35m and may act as a
strangler of other trees. It is found only between Cape
Tribulation and Tully. Its large, oblong fleshy fruit
contains many small seeds. The fruit turns from
yellow to orange and red as it ripens. These fruit are
tasty at the fully ripe red stage and can be eaten fresh
Bush Tucker of the Wet Tropics
Wet Tropics Management Authority - Rainforest Explorer
20 mm wide
Lemon Aspen grows to 18m and is found from the
Wet Tropics to central Qld. The irregularly shaped
fruit may have up to four seeds and appears from
April to Sept. Cut fruit has a lemon scent and a
tangy flavour. The flesh is best stewed with sugar for
marmalade, dressings, sauces and cordials.
20-25 x 20-40 mm
Tree grows to 20m in drier rainforests from southern
Qld to Cape York and SE Asia. Its large, dark
reddish purple to black fruits look like miniature
pumpkins. A thin layer of flesh covers a distinctive
woody case. They ripen from May to Oct and the
flesh, which has a plum-like taste, softens and
sweetens after harvest. It can be eaten fresh or
made into jams, desserts, cordials and wines.
up to 60 x 45 mm
This tree grows to 15m and is only found between
Cairns and Innisfail and on the Atherton Tableland. The
fruit capsule ripens in Dec-Jan, splitting into three
segments each containing a seed which is surrounded
by edible orange flesh. This makes excellent salad
garnish, sauces, chutneys and desserts. Musky Rat-
kangaroos and Cassowaries also eat the fruit.
85-135 mm long
This fleshy plant grows to 6m and is similar to commercially
cultivated bananas, except these native plants produce very
slender small bananas with many seeds. The bananas ripen
from Feb to July and are sweet to eat when fully ripe.
up to 20 x 12 mm
The leaves of this shrubby, woody climber have
distinctive silvery or coppery undersides. The red, fleshy,
oblong fruit appear from July to Jan. They are speckled
with fawn or gold dots and have a single seed. Flesh has
a sweet-savoury taste but only when fully ripe (deep
red). Makes excellent sauces and condiments. Also
favoured by the Lumholtz Tree-kangaroo.
Acid Drop Vine - Melodorum leichhardtii
(syn. Rauwenhoffia leichhardtii)
40-60 mm long.
This tall, woody climber has leaves with sparse, rusty
hairs on the underside. Several segmented, orange,
fleshy fruits 4-6 cm long appear at any time of the year.
The flesh is edible and has a variety of uses.
40-50 mm wide
Tree grows to 10m in wet areas along the Wet Tropics
coast, Cape York and New Guinea. It has shiny
leaves, papery red bark and bright yellow flowers.
Fruits have 6-8 red segments and inside, the small
brown seeds and white flesh are edible. Fruits
throughout the year.
up to 60 mm long
Understorey tree about 6m high found only on the Tablelands and the
Bellenden Ker Range. These primitive trees don’t look like conifers -
they have long, glossy leaves and the ‘fruit’ is actually a very swollen
stalk. This large, fleshy red globe has a hard, green seed attached
underneath. Fruits appear from July to Dec. The red flesh is sweet and
succulent when eaten straight from the tree and makes excellent
desserts and syrups. The seeds can be roasted.
Davidson’s Plum - Davidsonia pruriens
30-50 x 40-60 mm
Understorey rainforest tree 5-8m tall. Produces a
purple, hairy-skinned fruit with deep red flesh at any
time of the year. The sour flesh makes excellent jam,
wine, sauces and desserts and is used to flavour
yoghurt. Davidson’s Plum occurs in north Qld, also in
southern Qld and northern NSW.
40-80 x 30-70 mm
This tree can grow to 15m and is only found in the Wet
Tropics, although it has become common in suburban
gardens. It has attractive, shaving-brush shaped
flowers which sprout from the trunk and branches. The
large, fleshy red fruits ripen between Sept and Feb
and make tasty jams and desserts.
12-25 mm long
This understorey tree grows to 10m and occurs from
the Wet Tropics north to Asia, usually in drier forests
and rainforest margins. Male and female flowers
occur on separate plants. Succulent red fruit is ripe
from Feb to Oct. The sweet tasting flesh smells like
apple and makes excellent jams and jellies or can be
eaten straight from the tree.
Cheese Fruit - Morinda citrifolia
50-100 x 40-60 mm
Also known as Noni and Great Morinda, this tree
grows to 10m in drier rainforests in northern Australia
and the Asia Pacific. It produces large yellow fruit up
to 8cm wide from June to Sept. When ripe, the
translucent flesh smells like rotten blue-vein cheese.
It attracts flying foxes which disperse the seeds. The
fruit has high levels of vitamin C and is famous as a
medicine for many ailments including colds and
diarrhoea and as a poultice for wounds.