Balancing Act

Bronwen Scott
4 min readMar 4, 2023

Plant and moth work out their differences

Opening fruit of Atherton Sauropus (Breynia macrantha), Atherton Tablelands, FNQ. © Bronwen Scott.

It is always delight when plants put out flowers. I haven’t had much success with the species in my collection; they are mostly rainforest trees and are not usually confined to pots. Despite that, a few have done their thing. It doesn’t matter whether these flowers are showy or dowdy. All flowers are beautiful…although some might be beautiful in their own way. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Gastrodia.)

A Bloomfield Penda (Xanthostemon verticillatus, Myrtaceae) has produced a few of its exuberant sea-urchin flowers, and the two Cape York hibiscus (Hibiscus macilwraithensis and H. tozerensis, Malvaceae) regularly put out delicate vase-shaped blooms. The Sankowskya stipularis (Picrodendaceae) has tiny clusters of tinier flowers. Even the Daintree Pine (Gymnostoma australianum, Casuarinaceae)* has little bunches of reddish fluff at the end of its stems.

While most of the plants are struggling in the cool and overcast Wet Season, a few have taken to it with aplomb (or possibly a plum). Along with the Daintree Pine, the Atherton Sauropus or Pumpkin Fruit (Breynia macrantha, Phyllanthaceae) has flowered and fruited as if it’s going out of fashion. (It’s not going out of fashion.)

Ripening fruit of the Atherton Sauropus, Atherton Tablelands, FNQ. © Bronwen Scott.

The sauropus is widespread in New Guinea, South East Asia, China and India, but in Australia, is restricted the Atherton Tablelands region of Far North Queensland between 660 and 800 m above sea level. Most of the Australian records are from two patches of mabi forest — Wongabel and Curtain Fig.

Fortunately, I am growing it on the Atherton Tablelands at about 720 m. Not in mabi forest, but in a pot in the shade. It seems happy, and I am happy that it is growing so well.

The species has been described several times. The first description was in 1855, based on specimens collected in Java, when it was given the Sauropus macranthus. In the…



Bronwen Scott

Zoologist, writer, artist, museum fan, enjoying life in the tropical rainforest of Far North Queensland. She/her. Website: