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A plant out of place – the Beach Almond

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A weed, they say, is a plant out of place.  Well, the Beach almond (Terminalia catappa) a.k.a. Indian almond or Tropical almond is out of place on Fraser Island.  It’s a native of Asia, Africa and tropical northern Australia, and has been found in Eurong and Happy Valley and thus qualifies as a weed.

The trees can reach about 35 metres and are known for their shady canopies and typically are found on tropical beach fronts like the one pictured.

David Anderson came upon a Beach Almond in Eurong’s residential valley which was only about six metres high by following his nose … literally.  His olfactory senses were assaulted by a sickly, offensive odour and he traced the smell to the flowering specimen on the corner of Anderson Street and Williams Avenue.

Fraser Coast Regional Council’s Juliette Musgrave identified it for him before David located five other smaller trees in the area.

David suggests that although it’s not on the council’s pest list, after recent evidence, he believes it should be. The Beach Almond drops thousands (no exaggeration) of seeds and the germination rate is prolific. The seeds are like coffee beans in size and shape and they form a mat under the parent tree.  The trees in Eurong were removed over three years ago, but the seedlings keep coming up.

David gave his unsuspecting brother Michael the task of weeding them out when he came to the island to assist in the Cassia Blitz. It kept him occupied for quite some time.

At the time of the FINIA meeting held on the island earlier this year, a number of Beach Almonds were identified in Happy Valley. They are in the area behind the public toilet block. When they eventually flower, their “perfume” might be mistaken for an odour coming from the sewerage system.  The fruit apparently is popular with parrots (with no sense of smell?) like rainbow lorikeets and sulphur-crested cockatoos.

Seedlings are coming up in the Anderson’s yard and elsewhere in the Eurong residential valley a good distance from the parent tree.  The Beach Almond has a very long tap root making larger specimens difficult to pull.  Even the seedlings, like the one pictured, have long taproots reaching for the water table.

Once established, the trees grow rapidly but the good news is that they do take a long time to reach maturity, flower and produce fruit.  John Sinclair has reported to QPWS that there is one growing within the fenced eating area at Lake McKenzie.

The Beach Almond has the potential to become a major pest in the K’gari National Park.  If it manages to reach the flowering stage, its “perfume” is likely to put visitors off their lunch.

Article contributed by David Anderson, Fraser Island Association and FIDO volunteer

1 Comment

  1. Bill Thomson says:

    It’s odd. Apart from the name, nothing you say is how I would describe the tree I know in Townsville. It does not grow tall, I’d call then scrawny, I’ve never smelt it and it isn’t prolific.

    The big difference may be the black cockatoo which love the seeds. They bite off the branches and, on the ground, crack open the nuts with their powerful beaks. The trees are constantly pruned and few seeds survive.

    They are as native as coconuts.

    Regards, Bill

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