Name: Queensland Davidson plum, ooray (Davidsonia pruriens).
Plant type: evergreen, small-to-medium tree.
Climate: warm temperate, sub-tropical, tropical.
Soil: moist and well-drained, enriched with plenty of organic matter.
Position: full sun to part shade, with protection from the afternoon sun in hot climates.
Foliage: large, drooping, glossy green leaves.
Flowering and fruiting: sprays of reddish-brown flowers appear along the trunk from late spring to summer and develop into clusters of blue-black, plum-like fruit that ripens from late summer to autumn. The flesh of the fruit is bright red and each one contains one or two seeds.
Feeding: feed with a complete organic fertiliser when flowering and fruiting.
Watering: water regularly.
Queensland Davidson plum, or ooray, is a slender-trunked rainforest tree that can grow up to 20m in its natural setting but grows to 4–8m in the garden. It has a dense crown of large, glossy green leaves that are concentrated at the top of the trunk, giving the tree a palm-like appearance. The new foliage is flushed bright red or pink and is distinctively hairy. The bristly hairs extend to the stems and mature leaves and can be a skin irritant.
Pendulous clusters of small, red-brown flowers appear from late spring and are followed by blue-black, plum-like fruit. The flesh is bright red and incredibly sour, even for most tastes.
The attractive foliage of Queensland Davidson plum makes it a popular specimen plant, especially in a large pot or partly shaded spot in the garden. It can even be brought indoors, provided there is adequate light. The fruit is too sour to eat fresh, but is ideal for jams, preserves and pickles, or as a substitute for rhubarb or quince when baking. It will definitely add a zing to your dishes!
Choose a spot in full sun or part shade with well-drained soil. If growing in full sun in hot climates, you may need to provide young trees with protection from the afternoon sun in summer. Enrich the soil with compost and dig in well. If growing in a pot, use a quality potting mix. Dig a hole twice as wide and to the same depth as the existing root ball. Remove the plant from its pot, loosen the soil to free the roots and place in the centre of the planting hole. Backfill, firm the soil and water in well.
Spread a layer of organic mulch, such as pine bark, around the base of the plant to help conserve soil moisture and suppress weeds.
Queensland Davidson plum is a native rainforest tree, so likes a moist, fertile soil. It can tolerate poorer soils once established, but it’s best to nourish the soil and feed regularly to cultivate a healthy, productive plant.
The tree starts to bear fruit after three years. To harvest, give the tree a firm shake and any ripe fruit will fall to the ground. Take care when harvesting as the hairs can be a skin irritant. Birds will find the fruit attractive, too. If you don’t want to share some of the harvest with your feathered friends, consider using bird netting.
There is no need to prune Queensland Davidson plum.
Water plants regularly throughout the growing season. This may mean a deep watering once a week, or more in hot, dry conditions. Top up the mulch as needed to help conserve soil moisture.
Feed in late spring with an organic, slow-release native fertiliser. An organic fertiliser helps nourish both the soil and the tree – a healthy soil means a healthy tree.
Fruit fly can spoil the fruit. Use fruit fly traps early in the season before fruiting commences to help detect and monitor the presence of fruit fly. Fruit can be protected by spraying with a suitable insecticide, taking note of when and how to apply.
Queensland Davidson plum can be grown from seed. Remove the flesh from the seeds and soak them overnight, then sow in a tray of seed-raising mix. Position in a warm, brightly lit spot out of direct sunlight and mist regularly to keep the soil moist. Germination can take anywhere from three weeks to several months.
After applying fertiliser, delay harvesting for a few days and rinse well before cooking and eating. If using products to deal with pests, diseases or weeds, always read the label, follow the instructions carefully and wear suitable protective equipment. Store all garden chemicals out of the reach of children and pets.
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Photo credit: Getty Images and tuckerbush.com.au