Terminalia are shrubs or trees of the Combretaceae family. There are approximately 200
species distributed thoughout the tropics globally, of which 29 species occur in Australia.
Most species are deciduous. Terminalia species usually have branches growing at a wide
angle to a central leader, growing sympodially, with leaves clustered at the ends of the
branchlets. This gives them a characteristic pagoda like appearance (Australian Biological
Resources Study (ABRS) 1990, Department of Land and Resource Management (DLRM)
Leaves are petiolate, arranged spirally, and often have glands and domatia. In common
with all other members of the Combretaceae family, leaves are simple, with margins entire,
and without stipules (ABRS 1990, DLRM 2012a).
The flowers occur on axilliary spikes, with bisexual flowers at the base and male flower
towards the tip. Male flowers have an aborted ovary and the lower part of the calyx
resembles a pedicel. The hypanthium is short, calyx lobes are deltoid or triangular and
there are no petals. There are ten stamens and two ovules (ABRS 1990, DLRM 2012a).
Fruits are either dry and winged, or fleshy and drupe like (ABRS 1990, DLRM 2012a).
Some species are eaten by humans – two notable examples are T. ferdinandiana, or
“Kakadu plum”, which is high in vitamin C, and T. catappa, or “Indian almond” – the seed
of which is high in protein. The Kakadu plum is commercially exploited in Australia and the
beach almond is eaten in many countries (ABRS 1990, DLRM 2012a).
A number of species of Terminalia are used as medicines in various countries around the
world, and others are being investigated for their potential use in medical treatment
(Nagappa et al. 2003, Singh et al. 2008, Pfundstein et al. 2010, Pham et al. 2011).
Terminalia platyptera F. Muell.
T. platyptera is a deciduous tree with grey, tesselated bark, growing to 15m. Branchlets are
pubescent. Leaves vary in shape from obovate to elliptical, but are generally cuneate and
obtuse or occasionally retuse. They are discolorous with no domatia, 35-95 mm long, 14-
50 mm wide, with a length to width ratio of 1.5-3.5. Petioles are 10-18 mm long. The flower
spike may be 50-150 mm long with flowers 3-8 mm long and approximately 5 mm
diameter. The calyx has 2 mm x 1.5 mm triangular lobes and is pubescent. The fruit is
yellow and hairy, with two wings. It is 15-30 mm long and 40-150 mm wide. (ABRS 1990,
DLRM 2012a, DEHP 2013, Western Australian Herbarium (WAH) 2013)
Specimen from beside the road into Mount Windsor National Park (16.407909°S,
145.040716°E), fruit present.
Distribution and habitat
T. platyptera is endemic to Australia (Department of Environment and Heritage Protection
(DEHP) 2013), occurring in northern Queensland, the top end of the Northern Territory,
and the east of the Kimberley region in Western Australia (Commonwealth Scientific and
Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) n.d.). It is found growing in deep soil in
relatively flat areas (ABRS 1990), in sandy soils (WAH 2013), and in soils with a high clay
content (DLRM 2012a). It occurs in woodland (DLRM 2012a).
T. platyptera flowers from October to January and fruits from April to September (DLRM
2012a, WAH 2013).
T. platyptera is classified as “least concern” in Queensland (DEHP 2013), “not threatened”
in Western Australia (Western Australian Herbarium 2013), and is not mentioned in the
Northern Territory’s threatened species list (DLRM 2012b).
Terminalia arenicola Byrnes
T. arenicola is a deciduous tree growing to 10m. The leaves are discolorous, generally
obovate, 100-200 mm long, 60-140 mm wide, with a length to width ratio of 1.1-1.7. There
are usually two glands visible on the underside of the leaf near its junction with the petiole.
Domatia are foveoles, usually covered with hairs. Flowers form an inflorescence about the
same length as the leaves, with caducous bracts about 1mm long and narrowly triangular.
The triangularly lobed calyx is pubescent or thinly pilose. The mature fruit is dark red to
black, ovoid with a beak, 25-40 mm long, 17-25 mm wide and 14-18 mm thick (ABRS
1990, CSIRO 2010).
- A specimen from the foredune at Ellis Beach (16.731136°S, 145.656178°E)
- A specimen from Bramston Beach (Australian Tropical Herbarium (ATH))
- A specimen from Machans Beach (ATH)
Distribution and habitat
T. arenicola is endemic to Queensland and is common along beaches between 16°S and
20°S, It occurs along the entire length of the east coast, although it is difficult to evaluate
its natural distribution as it is widely cultivated (ABRS 1990, CSIRO n.d., CSIRO 2010).
T. arenicola is deciduous, and leafless in September or October (CSIRO 2010).
Not mentioned in the Queensland Government’s threatened species list (Queensland Government 2012).
This species may be confused with T. melanocarpa (ABRS 1990).
Terminalia microcarpa Decne
Syn: Terminalia sericocarpa F. Muell.
T. microcarpa is a tree with black, fissured, hard bark, growing to 30m. Leaves are
discolorous, with small oil dots, obovate to elliptical, obtuse to acuminate, and cuneate or
attenuate, 40-160 mm long, 15-70 mm wide, with a length to width ratio of 1.5-31, and a
petiole 2-10 mm long. Domatia are foveoles and leaves turn red before falling. The flower
spike may be 35-114 mm long with flowers 3-4 mm long and approximately 5 mm
diameter. The calyx has 2 mm x 2 mm triangular lobes and is sericeous outside. The fruit
is ovoid and slightly compressed, 11-18 mm long, 7-10 mm wide, sericeous, with thin
purple flesh (ABRS 1990, CSIRO 2010, DLRM 2012a).
- A specimen from Weipa (ATH)
- A specimen from Cairns (ATH)
- A specimen from Machans Beach (ATH)
Distribution and habitat
T. microcarpa occurs within 100 km of the coast in northern Australia – from the Kimberley
to central Queensland. It also occurs in New Guinea. It ranges in altitude from near sea
level to 750 m, in rainforest, rainforest margins, the banks of streams, and floodplain
margins (ABRS 1990, CSIRO 2010, DLRM 2012a).
T. microcarpa is deciduous or semi-deciduous, losing its leaves in September or October.
It flowers from September to November and fruits mainly in November (CSIRO 2010,
T. microcarpa is classified as “not threatened” in Western Australia (WAH 2013), and is
not mentioned in the Northern Territory’s threatened species list (DLRM 2012b) or the
Queensland Government’s threatened species list (Queensland Government 2012).
The fruit of T. microcarpa is a food source for fruit eating birds. It is also edible by humans.
The timber is useful for general construction purposes (CSIRO 2010, DLRM 2012a).
It was previously believed that T. sericocarpa was endemic to Australia and distinct from T.
microcarpa, which grows in New Guinea. However, they are now considered to be the
same species (DLRM 2012a).
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation no date, Atlas of living
Australia. Canberra, ACT: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.
Retrieved from http://bie.ala.org.au on 7/7/13.
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation 2010, Australian tropical
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Research Organisation. Retrieved from http://www.anbg.gov.au/cpbr/cd-keys/rfk on 7/7/13.
Department of Environment and Heritage Protection 2013, WetlandInfo: Terminalia
platyptera. Brisbane, Qld: Department of Environment and Heritage Protection. Retrieved
platyptera on 6/7/13.
Department of Land and Resource Management 2012a, “Combretaceae”, Flora of the
Darwin Region online. Darwin, NT: Department of Land and Resource Management.
Retrieved from http://www.lrm.nt.gov.au/herbarium/darwin_flora_online on 7/7/13.
Department of Land and Resource Management 2012b, Threatened Species List. Darwin,
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Pfundstein, B., El Desouky, S.K., Hull, W.E., Haubner, R., Erben, G. & Owen, R.W. 2010,
“Polyphenolic compounds in the fruits of Egyptian medicinal plants (Terminalia bellerica,
Terminalia chebula and Terminalia horrida): characterization, quantitation and
determination of antioxidant capacities”, Phytochemistry, vol. 71, no. 10, pp. 1132-1148.
Pham, A.T., Dvergsnes, C., Togola, A., Wangensteen, H., Diallo, D., Paulsen, B.S. &
Malterud, K.E. 2011, “Terminalia macroptera, its current medicinal use and future perspectives”, Journal of ethnopharmacology, vol. 137, no. 3, pp. 1486.
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Singh, A.T., Singh, G., Burman, A.C., Abraham, A., Bhat, B., Mukherjee, A., Mukherjee, R.,
Verma, R., Agarwal, S.K. & Jha, S. 2008, “Protective effects of Terminalia arjuna against
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