Alectryon oleifolius, has many common names such as western rosewood, inland rosewood, bullock bush, cattle bush, jiggo, boneree, bush minga, applebush, and red heart. It is a species of small tree of the soapberry family Sapindaceae, native to Australia.
Found in the Flinders Ranges, the fruit of this bush is bright orange with a large seed pod in the centre. It reminds us of a chocolate orange and can be eaten fresh or dried.
The species name is derived from the resemblance of its leaves to those of an olive tree. This is a plant that could easily go unnoticed, because it can be mistaken for a wattle. Its yellow-green flowers are small and inconspicuous, and even the bright and pretty fruit could be overlooked unless the plant has branches close to the ground.
Livestock find the leaves very tasty, so wherever it grows in grazing country the leaves are trimmed off as far as the animals can reach. They are known to live for more than 100 years, but may be in decline in the wild nowadays, due to non-native animals which destroy the seedlings.
◎ Common Name: Minra, Bullock Bush
◎ Scientific or Latin Name: Alectryon oleifolius
◎ Comparison: Orange and Carob
◎ Seasonality: Rare
◎ Region: SA Flinders Rangers
◎ Taste Profile: It reminds us of a chocolate orange and can be eaten fresh or dried.
◎ Types: Three subspecies are recognised: subspecies elongatus is a taller plant with greener longer leaves found in more easterly parts of western New South Wales. It grows on heavier soils. Subspecies canescens has greyer foliage and is found on limestone-sand soils and is more prone to suckering. Subspecies oleifolius is found in the more northern parts of Western Australia.
- The wood can be used for indoor and decorative purposes.
- The fruit can be eaten raw or dried.
- It is a favourite food amongst farm animals and native herbivores.
Traditional Aboriginal Food and Uses
When the seed is ripe, its red aril swells and bursts the capsule open. The seed is half covered by the nutritious, bird-attracting red aril, and is brown rather than the typical Alectryon black. Northern Territory Aborigines eat the arils.
Western & Modern
The fruit can be eaten fresh or dried, and holds a slight chocolatey orange flavour.
The heartwood of this plant is a pretty shade of red. It is soft and easy to work, but non-durable if used outdoors.
There are no known medicinal uses for this plant.
Note: The term 'Bush Tucker' and 'Bush Food' are not Warndu's preferred terms for Australian Native Ingredients or Australian Botanicals.
Images: © Luisa Brimble