Botanical Buzz | Ivory Curl: An explosion of creamy white

The Ivory Curl tree is native to tropical Queensland and can grow as tall as 30m in its natural rainforest habitat. Photo: MAITLAND MERCURY
The Ivory Curl tree is native to tropical Queensland and can grow as tall as 30m in its natural rainforest habitat. Photo: MAITLAND MERCURY

Invory in the heart of Dubbo?

If we were to single out the most likely native plant with ornamental potential our focus would be the Ivory Curl tree (Buckinghamia celsissima).

Garden authority Harry Oakman (1979) had praise for this Australian tree; “having many features that make it suitable for gardens and landscapes.

It is evergreen, shapely, long-lived, easy to raise from seed, and uniform in growth.”

That was back when many of us thought gardening was something mum did for a lark to annoy dad.  

Times may have changed, and so have we, but the splendour of the ivory curl tree is a constant.

Harry should have added it is up there as the plant equivalent of a beauty pageant winner: the flowers are stunning!

Of course as it comes from Queensland few of us would give it a go.

The ivory curl tree can grow as tall as 30m in its natural rainforest habitat, but is much smaller, about 10m, in Australian east coast gardens.

While it is in the same family as the silky oak (Grevillea robusta), family proteaceae, the ivory tree does not have the same hardiness against frost.

The heat in Dubbo is fine, but drop below 10 degrees celsius and we start looking for foliage degeneration.

Ivory curl has a similar look to another Australian proteaceae rainforest tree, namely the white oak, Grevillea baileyana (synonym G, pinnatifida, describing the juvenile lobed leaves very nicely, and maybe the botanist was consuming Bailey’s Irish alcohol at the time of the re-naming).

The crazy thing about the white oak (G. baileyana) is that it could be a stand-in for the ivory curl, with the cream flowers doing that same terminal panicle look at 20cm in length in the warm seasons.

Hope I’m not confusing you with all these botanical names because it gets more complicated when Mr. Oakman describes another Queensland proteaceae rainforest tree, the Firewheel tree (Stenocarpus sinuatus) which he also calls, wait for it … the white oak. Trust Mr. Oakman to have his oak trees coming and going.

As we are having a patter about Proteaceae family plants I should add they are all highly allergic to Phosphorus in the soil.

Weathered compost is good for mulch.

Factors needed are good drainage, cool root run, sunny aspect, good air circulation, and adequate water (here I push the limits).

Key need for out-of-region plants is a protective micro-climate.

We use Wattles as a cover and the chances are high a test run of a few Ivory Curl and White Oak will come off a winner.

Something to take our shirt off about. Just need to be vigilant about ivory poachers, won’t we!