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Mar 28, 2012: Antidesma bunius

Antidesma bunius

Katherine is the author of today's entry. She writes:

Today's photo is thanks to 3Point141@Flickr (original image | additional image | Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool).

Antidesma bunius has a multitude of common names in English and many other languages. In English, these include bignay, Chinese-laurel, currant tree, wild cherry, and salamander-tree. According to USDA GRIN (linked above re: English common names), Antidesma bunius has two synonyms: Antidesma dallachyanum and Stilago bunius. A third synonym, Antidesma dallachyi, is recorded by the Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants site.

This dioecious woody species grows to about 5 meters tall. With male and female flowers on different individual plants, it should be apparent that the plant in today's photograph is a female. In the wild, the species is present up to elevations of 900m. Antidesma bunius is a widely distributed species (see GRIN link above) of temperate and tropical Asia, Queensland, and on islands of the central Pacific, but it is also cultivated widely outside of its native range in other tropical and subtropical areas.

According to the Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants site, "the fruit of [Antidesma bunius] is used in North Queensland to make jams or syrups and was once very popular and sought after". However, it is oft considered bitter as well. Wikipedia's page for Antidesma bunius elaborates, noting that "while the majority of the indigenous population tastes bignay as sweet, people of European ancestry often find it bitter to the point of inedibility. This phenomenon is inversely linked to the taste perception of phenylthiocarbamide [...]" (see: Henkin, R and Gillis, W. 1977. Divergent taste responsiveness to fruit of the tree Antidesma bunius. Nature. 265: 536-537). In addition to the species being used for food, Antidesma bunius has some economic value for its wood, though the National Herbarium Nederland page on Antidesma mentions that the scent of the bark is "not so great".

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