Eugenia sp. and Syzygium paniculatum Eugenia australis, E,myrtifolia, E. paniculata and finally Syzygium paniculatum - taxonomy is ever evolving – modern DNA testing is contributing greatly to the accuracy of naming species. Common names are Australian water pear or brush-cherry. A proposed declared invaderit most certainly has made itself at home in our region and the reason for this can be found in all those wonderfully enthusiastic recommendations to gardeners in numerous gardening publications over the years encouraging, undoubtedly with every good intention, the use of hardy and hassle-free exotics. Thankfully we have come a long way and learnt a great deal since then.
Syzygium (Eugenia) species come in many shapes and forms and include evergreen shrubs and trees growing to between 3 and 10 meters tall. They are Australian in origin – hardly surprising – and were cultivated as ornamentals, hedges, screening plants and edible fruit. In the Hartenbos area there are good examples of Syzygium paniculatum used as screening plants between properties. In Wilderness they are seen in almost every garden, particularly along the dune area, because like our indigenous shrubs and trees they do well in poor soil and it is for this very reason that they have acclimatised and settled in so exceptionally well. They fruit prolifically and the fruits are a great favourite with birds as well as monkeys and baboons. This has contributed to the spread of the species into forest areas and coastal bush. Many examples are in evidence in Nature’s Valley where baboons spread the seed into the forest.
Identification:Certainly a handsome plant the Syzygium paniculatum is an evergreen shrub or tree that develops a rounded shape with age, starting off in a compact cylindrical shape. The leaves are stiff, thick and glossy dark green in colour. Young foliage is tinged bronze. Leaves are rounded to shortly pointed at the tips varying between 30 – 80 mm in length. The creamy-white flowers with prominent stamens and a slight perfume appear in short terminal or sub-terminal sprays in late summer. The fruits are pink to red and oval shaped, approximately 20mm long. The fruits are succulent but in human terms the taste is insipid.
Invasive status: Potential transformer – proposed declared invader. Syzygium paniculatum invades coastal bush, forest edges and riverbanks.
Control: No herbicide is registered at this stage and hand pulling of seedlings would be most appropriate. Best practice, choose an indigenous alternative.
Indigenous substitutes:Rothmannia globosa (Bell gardenia), Tarchonanthus camphoratus (Camphor bush), Rhamnus prinoides (Dogwood), Vepris lanceolata (White ironwood) Gonioma kamassie (Kamassie), Kiggelaria Africana (Wild Peach)
References: Alien Weeds and Invasive Plants by Lesley Henderson, Creative Gardening with Indigenous Plants by Pitta Joffe.