Argyrodendron trifoliolatum (STERCULIACEAE) White Booyong

Plants to Plant


Large tree to 40 metres, in subtropical and dry rainforests in Queensland, NSW, New Guinea. Grows along scrubby watercourses from Port Macquarie, NSW to Atherton in Queensland. Occurs at higher altitudes in the warmer areas. Related to the Peanut Tree Sterculia quadrifida.

Bark brown to grey, fissured and usually scaly. Branchlets covered with lenticels. Fruit a brown, scaly seed with thin silvery-brown wings (a samara), 3 cm long, borne in clusters. Ripe November to January.

Leaves trifoliolate, hence the name, dark green above and silvery grey-green to brown underneath due to a scurf of miniature wheel like scales.

Pronounced ar-jir-o-DEN-dron. Common names include Booyong, Brown Tulip Oak, Brown Oak, Silver Tree, Brown Crow’s foot, Silky Elm, Brown Booyong, Red Booyong, Hickory, Black Stave Wood, Highroot, Stone Wood, Ash Meganti. Booyong is the Aboriginal name for the tree in northern NSW.

In the 1870s William Flick of North Lismore reported that local Aboriginal people used the Booyong as a “wireless”. “They would tap a message in code on the side of a Booyong tree buttress. In mountain country the message could be heard eight kilometres away.” – JG Steele (1984) Aboriginal pathways in southeast Queensland and the Richmond River.


Argyrondendron from Greek arguros meaning white metal such as silver and dendron meaning a tree, referring to the underside of leaflets, young branchlets and inflorescence being covered by a silvery scurf of minute wheel-shaped scales. Trifoliolatum from Latin tres meaning three, and foliatus provided with or having leaves, referring to the compound leaf of three leaflets.


Flowers bell-shaped, creamy, from July to Sept.

PHOTO: Mark Marathon


Leaves alternate, compound with 3 leaflets (sometimes 5), elliptical and 7-14cm in length. Blade dark green above and silvery below, due to a covering of tiny scales. Leaf edges wavy, mid veins raised on both surfaces, leaf stalk 1-5 cm long, with a prominent swelling at the base. Oil dots absent.

Good garden and container plant. Grows to about 15 metres in the garden. Natural stands were felled for their timber which is attractive but it was often used wastefully in the building industry for concrete form work.

Propagate from fresh seed (preferably no more than a week old), which generally germinates easily.