Elingamita johnsonii

Elingamita johnsonii


no common name


A small tree up to 3 metres, this is a plant seldom seen in gardens but is one which should be planted more often. This favourite of mine is found naturally only on West Island of the northern Three Kings group of islands. Its name commemorates a passenger steamer,  the “Elingamite”, which was wrecked below the cliffs where the tree was found by Major M.E .Johnson in 1950. It is a genus of only one species.

A dense, bushy, small tree which can grow wider than it is tall, it is very tolerant of coastal

situations. Its leaves are always glossy, smooth and satiny and fit in very well with a

sub-tropical feeling. The flowers are small, yellowish and in clusters at the end of the

branches. One needs to look closely at the flowers to be able to tell the sex of the plant. This

is necessary as males and females are on separate plants and only the female carries the

wonderful, large clusters of  bright red berries. These berries take many months to ripen but

even in the green stage they are very ornamental. When red they hang on to the tree for a

long time and birds don’t seem particularly keen on eating them which is an advantage.

Plants which are sold in Garden Centres are usually seedlings which means that you won’t

know for several years whether you have male or female plants. For myself I collected graft

wood from a known male and female tree and grafted them on to the two plants I had.

Needless to say when my original plants flowered I had the female on the male and the male

on the female. I used a conventional cleft graft and the grafts seem to take easily.

A plant well suited to a smaller garden especially a coastal one, give it a try, although it won’t be suitable for frosty sites.