Try growing: Red Kamala (Mallotus philippensis)

If you're looking for a small cute tree to grow in your Illawarra garden, one that you probably haven't heard of before or seen in nurseries is Red Kamala (scientific name Mallotus philippensis). It could fit the bill, particularly if you have a bit of shade across the garden.

And if you're not looking for a small tree to grow, maybe Red Kamala will change your mind. It's really cute!
A Red Kamala tree growing on the slopes of Mount Keira.  It has a somewhat shrubby habit but will probably lose more  of its lower branches with time. Image by Elena Martinez.

This young and shrubby Red Kamala can be seen growing at the Wollongong Botanic Garden, near 
the administration building. Image by Emma Rooksby. 
Red Kamala will typically get to around 5m tall, or sometimes a bit higher. It may be shrubby in appearance, but will eventually form a tree shape - or you can give it a bit of help by pruning off older branches once it has reached 3m or so. The crown is usually rounded and fairly neat, giving the tree an attractive appearance overall. It grows best on well-drained soil and with a bit of shade, so if you already have a larger tree in your garden you could add one of these. It can also be grown in full sun, where it might need a bit of extra water. 

The flowers and fruit aren't particularly spectacular. But one interesting feature of this species is that its sap is sucked by a (relatively) appealing insect - the Mallotus Harlequin Bug - that only lives on Mallotus species. This probably doesn't do the plant a whole heap of good, but won't generally do it much visible damage. And according to the website linked above, the mother bugs 'demonstrate parental care by guarding the eggs and young nymphs from predators.' (Hat tip Elena Martinez for alerting me to this bug!)
The amazing-looking Mallotus Harlequin Bug hanging out on the fruit. Image by Elena Martinez.
Red Kamala is not widely available but there are places you can buy it now and then. Do you have one growing?

No comments

Post a comment