Apple dumpling in the shape of bell flower never looked so good
It was an exciting moment on the Lucilla Ridge Landcare planting day, April 26, to stumble across this tiny seedling popping up out of the ground. Easily overlooked and mistaken for just another unidentifiable plant for those of us without native plant literacy skills, here was this little inconspicuous plant attempting once again to be recognised. He / She (they are hermaphrodites with both male and female organs) had been obscured by the grasses and weeds. Without perceived value, mown multiple times, she was making one more effort to make her presence felt.
Sounds a bit melodramatic, but what the heck, people get excited over professional sports people hitting a ball over a net, or kicking an egg shaped ball between two goal posts or even sinking a little dimpled ball into a hole. Where’s the beauty in that when compared with the bell shaped flowers and tasty fruit of a mature Apple dumpling plant?
Billardiera scandens, commonly known as apple berry or apple dumpling, is a small shrub or twining plant of the Pittosporaceae family which occurs in forests in the coastal and tableland areas. It has a silky touch and appearance that becomes more brittle as the dense growth matures. She has single or paired yellow flowers, pink-tinged yellow sepals and bright yellow petals. The summer flush produces fruit of oblong berries up to 30 mm long, initially green in colour and covered in fine hair – somewhat akin to a tiny kiwifruit in appearance..
The flowers and fruit of apple berry are attractive to both birds and people. The fruits, which only ripen after dropping to the ground, are valued as an Australian bush food and are variously described as tasting like stewed apples or kiwifruit.
Botanist Joseph Maiden noted in 1898 that children of European settlers in the Port Jackson area, where it is commonly found, had been eating the berries since the foundation of the settlement in 1788. He also noted in 1889 that it was commonly referred to as “Apple Berry” and that “The berries are acid and pleasant when fully ripe. From their shape children call them “dumplings.” When unripe, a small quantity of the juice produces very disagreeable and persistent heartburn.”
Apple berry is a popular choice in Australian gardens, especially those favouring indigenous plants, as a rambling yet non-dominant shrub, especially between other native species. It is an adaptable plant, that tolerates a wide variety of soils, including clay. See Wikapedia entry for more information.
MMM … Issue 29, May 2022