Backhousia australis G.Benn.
Backhousia riparia Hook. & Harv.
Common Name: Grey Myrtle
Backhousia myrtifolia is an evergreen shrub or small tree, usually growing up to 7 metres tall, though one report says it sometimes reaches a height of 30 metres. Larger trees are somewhat flanged or buttressed at the base[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food, medicine and source of wood. It has become more popular as a food flavouring in Australia as a result of the increased interest in native foods and is traded commercially. The plant is also grown as an ornamental.
Australia - New South Wales, Queensland
Gullies and the margins of rainforests[
]. Usually in warmer rainforest, often close to streams[
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Ornamental, Wild
Backhousia myrtifolia is found in eastern Australia where the climate is warm temperate to subtropical with hot summers. It experiences occasional low temperatures down to at least -7°c[
], but also requires the heat of summer to fully ripen its wood. It can be grown outdoors in cool winter areas of the temperate zone.
Prefers a position in full sun in a fertile moisture retentive well-drained soil[
Leaves are very aromatic[
]. One form of the plant, which is rich in the essential oil elemicin, is used as a spice.
Seed can remain viable on the plant for 3 - 4 years[
The leaves are 3-6 cm long and have a pleasant spicy cinnamon-like aroma and flavour. The leaves of one form of the plant, which are rich in the essential oil elemicin, are used as a spice in savoury recipes, deserts, confectionary and herbal teas. They can be added to curries, stews and rice dishes (wonderful in steamed rice). They can also be used in biscuits, sweets and slices - anywhere cinnamon is used[
The leaves make a calming, medicinal tea, useful in the treatment of dyspepsia, heartburn, colic and other disorders of the digestive system[
An essential oil is obtained from the leaves[
]. The main essential oil isolated in cinnamon myrtle is elemicin, which is also a significant flavouring component in common nutmeg[
Leaves can be crushed and rubbed on skin as an insect repellant[
The wood is of a light yellow colour and often prettily marked with dark walnut stains. It is close-grained, hard, tough, strong and durable. It is used for tool handles, mallets, wheels, construction etc, and is suitable for turnery[
Seed - surface sow in spring or autumn in a greenhouse and keep the compost moist until germination takes place. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts.
Cuttings of half-ripe wood with a heel, mid summer in a frame[
]. They root easily[