Latin Name: Pittosporum Undulatum
Origin: Australia – New South Wales, Victoria.
Alternative Name(s): Victorian box, Mock orange, Australian cheesewood, New Zealand daphne, Victorian laurel, Wild coffee
Known Hazards: This plant contains saponins. Saponins are found in many foods, such as some beans, and although they are fairly toxic to people they are poorly absorbed by the body and most pass straight through without any problem. They are also broken down if the food is thoroughly cooked for a long time. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish.
Habitat: Sheltered situations and rainforests.
Edibility Rating: 0 (1-5)
Medicinal Rating: 0 (1-5)
Physical Characteristics: A tall shrub or small tree growing to a height of 14m and a spread of 6m. It has shiny dark green paler beneath, oval leaves with wavy edges which give it its specific name.
Flowers: Creamy-white, sweetly scented flowers are followed by clusters of orange fleshy fruit about 13mm long. In flower from November to Genuary. The flowers are hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Lepidoptera (Moths & Butterflies).
The opened seeds can be boiled up to produce a gum. This gum can be used as a safe herbicde on weed seedlings in fragile areas – by smothering the plants.
Can be grown as a windbreak hedge in the mildest areas of the country, resisting maritime exposure. Wood. Used in the manufacture of golf clubs.
Notes: Native to wet forests in coastal areas between the Great Dividing Range and the sea from southern Victoria to southern Queensland. The fruits are attractive to birds and other animals including posums and foxes. It also spreads in dumped garden waste and contaminated soil and seeds stick to footwear.
Sweet Pittosporum is invasive in New Zealand, South Africa and USA. It is a serious weed problem outside its natural range in SA, Tasmania, Victoria and WA. It is a weed on King, Lord Howe and Norfolk islands. It is a serious weed in the Sydney district in areas where it does not occur naturally and on the NSW mid-north coast.Pittosporum undulatum, commonly mistaken as a native in Tasmania, appears to hybridise with P. bicolor in Tasmania. It is invasive in coastal areas. Control of dispersal is difficult. Pittosporum affects natural environments through shading, competition and changes in soil nutrients. Changes in fire regimes has allowed Sweet pittosporum to out-compete fire-adapted native species.