Brush cherry, Australian brush cherry
Evergreen, Edible fruit, Shrubs, Trees
An Australian native with a confused botanical background. Once sold as Eugenia myrtifolia or E. paniculata, the plant most commonly sold in the West as S. paniculatum may actually be S. australe. The two plants differ slightly in leaf form, and it appears that only the botanists will be able to tell them apart.
If unclipped, brush cherry makes a single- or multitrunked tree to 30–60 ft. tall and 10–20 ft. wide, with a dense foliage crown. Often sheared into formal shapes and hedges; common background or screen plant. Oblong leaves in rich glossy green are often bronze tinged; reddish bronze new growth. Small, creamy white summer flowers have conspicuous tufts of stamens that look like little brushes. Blossoms are followed by showy, edible, 3/4-in., rosy purple fruit that is insipid raw but good in jellies. Several named varieties selected for good leaf color or dwarf form are sold.
Will not stand heavy frost; foliage burns at 25°F (–4°C), and even old plants may die if temperature drops much lower. Thrives in well-drained soil. Heavy root system makes it difficult to grow other plants nearby. Hedges need frequent clipping to stay neat. Eugenia psyllid can cause defoliation; control is a predatory wasp that has been released throughout California but is most effective in warm weather. Frequent pruning, removing new growth, also reduces psyllid damage.
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