Shrub or small tree to 6m high in drier rainforest, on watercourses and on the boundary of open forest. Separate male and female plants.

From the coast to the escarpment ranges; north from the Illawarra region NSW. Not found in the very driest of scrubs. In the open it is usually compact, but can be leggy under a canopy.

Branchlets can be dotted with elongated lenticels. Strong sunlight intensifies the red new growth.

Leaves holly-like, broad-elliptic to rhombic or obovate, mostly 2-8 cm, 2-5 cm wide, stiff, prominently veined, margins with 2-4 pairs of spine-tipped teeth, smooth; petiole 1-3 mm long.

Useful as an understorey plant in rainforest plantings. Grown in gardens for its attractive, holly-like foliage, enjoys well-drained soil, extra nutrients and mulch but can tolerate neglect. Sooty mould can be a problem.

Foliage and fruit. Photo: Robert Whyte

Flowers and name

Flowers are small creamish/green axillary racemes, male and female flowers on separate plants from November-December.

Alchornea after Stanesby Alchorne 1727-1800, a collector of British plants; ilicifolia from Latin “ilex” the great scarlet (holly) or Holm oak, Quercus ilex, and “folium” leaf because of the holly-like leaves.

Host plant for the Common Albatross butterfly (Appias paulina ega).

Holly-like foliage. Photo: Robert Whyte

Fruit, seed and propagation

Fruit is a green to brown, three lobed capsule around 7mm in diameter splitting to reveal one seed. Ripe September-November or throughout the year.

Strangely hard to propagate from seed, as it self sows easily. This suggest dormancy. Germination takes 3-6 months. Cuttings strike easily.

An exceptionally hardy plant, though can be slow growing. Useful as an understory plant in rainforest plantings.

Photo: Robert Whyte

New foliage. Photo: Robert Whyte