Irvingbaileya australis (Stemonuraceae)

Irvingbaileya australis DSC_1361

It is no surprise that the tropics harbour some of the weirdest looking fruits on the planet, and based on this criterion, this obscured small endemic rainforest tree or shrub, Irvingbaileya australis, in the Far North Queensland Wet Tropics must qualify as being among one of the strangest.

In the 1940s, the botanist Richard A. Howard named this genus of only one member in
honour of a fellow botanist Irving Widmer Bailey (1884-1967), and described the strange fruit in the following terms:

Drupe plano-convex, the pulvinus on the convex surface of the fruit surmounting a T-shaped keel of the putamen, the other surface plane or only slightly concave

Over three quarters of a century later, we see the following description in the Australian tropical rainforest key:

Fruits consist of a green carpel…and a waxy, white, succulent, ovoid appendage…

I thought I’d offer my own:

A large fleshy white pea-like thingy mounted atop a broad green surfboard

I read that cassowaries and other native beasties feast on this white thingy when available. I squeezed it and tasted the juice (don’t follow my example) and it was bitter.

Of the leaves there is little to say that will help with identification. They are, simple, entire, alternately arranged, shiny green, slightly less so below. No stipules. However, the leaves that fall onto the ground dry a dull black shade.

The flowers are also not particularly showy, and don’t even seem to open up fully. But they do look like they have very hairy stamens.

Irvingbaileya australis DSC_0846
The flowers don’t seem to open very widely, and the filaments (the stalk that bears the anthers) are densely hairy.

Irvingbaileya australis DSC_0845
Very young developing carpel (on right of photo). The “appendage” that will swell into the large white pea-like structure is already evident.


Howard, R. A. (1943). Studies of the icacinaceae—VI. Irvingbaileya and codiocarpus, two new genera of the icacineae. Brittonia, 5(1), 47-57.

Schori, M. (2010). A systematic revision of Gomphandra (Stemonuraceae) (Doctoral dissertation, Ohio University).


About David Tng

I am David Tng, a hedonistic botanizer who pursues plants with a fervour. I chase the opportunity to delve into various aspects of the study of plants. I have spent untold hours staring at mosses and allied plants, taking picture of pollen, culturing orchids in clean cabinets, counting tree rings, monitoring plant flowering times, etc. I am currently engrossed in the study of plant ecology (a grand excuse to see 'anything I can). Sometimes I think of myself as a shadow taxonomist, a sentimental ecologist, and a spiritual environmentalist - but at the very root of it all, a "plant whisperer"!
This entry was posted in Endemics, Habitat - Rain forest, Lifeform - Trees & Shrubs, Stemonuraceae (Stemonurus family) and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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