Mallotus claoxyloides (EUPHORBIACEAE) Green Kamala, Smell of the Bush

Plants to Plant

A small tree or shrub to 8 m in dry rainforest from the Richmond River in NSW to the Iron Range in North Queensland and westward into the very dry semi-evergreen vine thickets. Green Kamala is a common plant on the drier marginal rainforest sites and is often one of the first species to germinate after an area has been cleared. Individual plants also sucker quite freely. Green kamala is a wonderful shrub for understorey in rainforest gardens. Also known as Smell of the Bush, it has a tantalising smell characteristic of rainforest creeks. Pleasant and evocative to most people, others say it smells like possum piss. Visiting scientists from the USA have said it smells vaguely like skunk. The smell (both male and female plants have the odour) is more noticeable after rain. The origin of the smell is often difficult to pinpoint to the Green Kamala bush itself because its strength seems to fade as the individual plant is approached. The smell seems to waft away from the plant for some distance.

Photo: Robert Whyte


Green Kamala has an ovate to elliptical, hairy leaf with a few widely spaced teeth on its margin. It produces small green to yellow flowers on separate male and female trees between October and March. These are followed by softly prickly grey-brown three-lobed seed capsules which split into individual segments when dry. There is one seed in each individual segment. Germination may take several months but fresh seed usually has high viability. Seed can be hard to collect as it drops from the plant as soon as capsules split. Growth is usually slow initially but once established it grows steadily into a very hardy (if scrubby) plant. Often one of the first species to germinate after an area has been cleared. Suckers quite freely and would no doubt easily strike from cuttings.

Photo: Robert Whyte

Male Flowers

Mallotus from Greek mallotos lined with wool, referring to the woolly hairs on the leaves of some of the species; claoxyloides from Greek eidos resembling, because of the similarity of the foliage to that of Claoxylon Australian Brittlewood.

Photo: Robert Whyte