In most gardening forums I frequent I often come across people asking whether there are any indigenous Australian deciduous trees. While members offer some good responses there really is only few that they can suggest.
On the other hand, exotic deciduous trees are a dime a dozen; elms, magnolias, plane trees, maples, oaks and many fruit trees, to name a few. Yet for all the diversity Australia’s flora offers, most of our trees are evergreen. Finding a deciduous native for your garden is harder than ‘picking a broken nose’.
1. Illawarra Flame Tree – Brachychiton Acerifolius
For the purist, the Illawarra Flame Tree is not completely deciduous. While most deciduous trees lose their leaves in winter and then gain them again around flowering time, this brachychiton opts to shed most of its foliage when the blooms appear. It then leaves this very striking tree with red bell flowers against a grey bark to look amazing against a blue sky backdrop.
The Illawarra Flame Tree, native to the east-coast of Australia, can grow to 15m (50ft) and grow best in drier, warmer parts of the country.
2. Australian Red Cedar – Toona Ciliata
The Australian Red Cedar is more of your classic deciduous tree, shedding its leaves in winter and then flourishing with bronze-red foliage in late spring. It was once harvested as Australia’s premier timber but are now becoming hard to find. If you can source one then you will need some room to grow it as thy can reach up to 35m (120ft) high.
3. White Cedar – Melia azedarach var.australasica
Another cedar, this time the white version, Melia azerdach is really a child of the mahogany family. It produces yellow fruits which are poisonous to humans but birds seem to love them that remain on the tree long after it has de-foliated. It’s another tree that originates from the eastern seaboard and can grow to 20m. It’s fast-growing habit is a great plus for many home-gardeners.
4. Tanglefoot Beech – Nothofagus gunnii
Our cold-climate deciduous is the tanglefoot beech which is native to the Tasmanian highlands. It’s a low-grower compared to the rest of the Aussie deciduous trees but can still reach up to 5m in height. It’s very much the traditional style of deciduous trees with its foliage changing shade to hues of yellows, oranges and reds mid-autumn and then shedding them completely at the start of winter.
5. Boab Tree – Adansonia gibbosa syn. Adonsonia gregorii
One of my favourite trees is the boab tree which flourishes in our country’s north. They are truly the camels of the plant kingdom as they store water inside their trunks during the dry season and then replenish themselves during the tropical wet. These boab’s lose their leaves at the same time as the dry period starts in order to conserve energy.
6. Silky Oak – Grevillea robusta
Finally, the last native deciduous tree is the silky oak, the largest plant in the grevillea household. It too, like the Illawarra Flame Tree, is only semi-decidous losing its leaves before showing its blooms. These trees can grow to 12m high and area common in the north-eastern parts of Australia.