Tonielle Christensen Land & Nature Stewardship, Plant Nursery Leave a Comment



Common Name:  Riberry, Lilly Pilly, Australian Cherry.

Latin Name:  Syzygium luehmannii.

Origin:  Australia.

Description (what it looks like):  A weeping evergreen, medium-sized, rainforest tree, 5-7m high, spreading 6-8m.  The tree’s crown is dense with small leaves above a tall straight trunk.  The bark is red brown, light grey or pinkish grey with soft papery scales.  The small, glossy, lance-shaped leaves are pink/red when young and grow to a glossy green 4-5cm in length.  Flowers form in November or December, in small panicles at the ends of the branchlets, approximately half the length of the leaves.  White or cream petals form in fours or fives, at 1.5mm long.  Fruit looks like a pear shaped pink/red berry, growing to 10-15mm long, covering a single seed, 4mm in diameter.

Uses (function):  The Riberry was one of the first edible plants to be noted during Captain Cook’s visit to Australia in 1770.  Used as an edible hedge or screen for shading or as a windbreak mainly, due to its attractive foliage and fast growing nature.  Keeping it pruned and within easy reach makes foraging for berries easy.  Occasionally grown as a topiary.  It is possible to grow in container gardening provided it is planted in a 35+L pot.  Attracts native fauna and provides a nesting spot for local birds, who enjoy the flowers and the fruit.  The foliage is a good filler in cut flower bunches.

Nutritional value:  Commonly referred to as “medicine berries”, riberries provide essential vitamins and minerals to fight against colds and keep the immune system healthy. The pulp is known to treat ear infections.  Three times the folate of a blueberry, rich in manganese and an important plant source of calcium, these berries also contain high levels of anthocyanin, a potent antioxidant that is thought to improve cognitive function.

Growing details (propagation, seed etc):  Grown by cutting.  From seedling to first harvest takes roughly 4-5 years.  Fruits in February and March.  Prune after flowering to maintain compact growth.

Best time to grow:  Plant out in spring as the soil starts to warm up.

Soil:  Fertile, well drained soil with a neutral pH (6.6-7.3).

Sun:  Full sun to part shade.

Water:  Mulch and water regularly until the plant is established, usually around 12 weeks.  Keep soil moist and fertilised thereafter for optimum plant health.

How to eat it:  The fruit has a refreshingly tart, spicy flavor that has a hint of cloves and cinnamon.  The fruit is used to make distinctively flavored jams, sauces, syrups, glazes, confit, chutney, cakes, salad dressing and confectionery.  Berries can keep in the refrigerator for up to three weeks and frozen for up to two years.  It is a very popular ingredient in wild-food dishes.


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