Black Plum Project

The Black Plum Project

What Is The Black Plum?

The black plum, also known as the wild apple, Flinders plum, and the shiny leaved condoo, is an endangered tree found on rocky slopes in vine thickets, subtropical and dry and rainforest in south east Queensland, where it has a restricted distribution.

The plant’s scientific name is Planchonella eerwah, deriving its name from Mount Eerwah, an are on the Sunshine Coast near Eumundi where it was discovered.

Planchonella eerwah grows as a tall shrub or small tree reaching 4 to 40 metres high with scaly bark on its trunk. Foliage is dense and glossy (hence the name shiny leaved condoo). Young branchlets are greyish, hairy and exude a milky latex when cut. Leaves are egg or spatula-shaped, 4–14 cm long, leathery and hairless with raised venation on both surfaces. Flowers and fruit can be found in any season.

The flowers are a cream-green colour and hairy and are about 4 mm long. The dark red-purple to black fruit are oval to globular, measuring 3–6 cm (1–2.5 in) long, with three to five seeds. Flowers and fruits occur throughout the year with peak flowering from August to January

Rare & Endangered Species

This rare tree is classified as endangered, and was presumed extinct for a large part of last century until its rediscovery at Ivory’s Knob, southwest of Ipswich in 1980.

Barry & Thomas 1994
Map indicating some of the know areas where the species exist on private and public land ranging from an individual trees to multiple trees in an area.

It is restricted to three locations in southeastern Queensland:

  • Nambour-Maleny district
  • Beenleigh-Ormeau-Pimpama district
  • Ipswich-Beaudesert district.

Dominant associated species in southern populations include hoop pine (Araucaria cunninghamii), Harpullia pendula, and members of the genus Flindersia, and in the northern Argyrodendron species, Atalaya multiflora, Choricarpia subargentea, Excoecaria dallachyana, and Flindersia australis.

There are seven known populations of the Shiny-leaved Condoo with an estimated combined population of 160 to 180 individuals.

The trunk of Planchonella eerwah has rough scaly bark, and the tree can reach up to 40 metres in height..


This species has faced many challenges which has reduced its population.

Past land clearing, logging and quarrying operations greatly reduced the available habitat of the species. Land clearing is still a threat at several of the species known habitat sites.

Vegetation clearing has increased exposure of all known sites to weed invasion, such as Lantana, which may prevent regeneration of Shiny-leaved Condoo around the edges of remaining scrub . Other weeds affecting populations include Glycine, Corky Passionflower, Umbrella Tree, and exotic grasses. Destruction of seedlings by fire is also a threat where weeds have increased the fire hazard.

Other threats to Shiny-leaved Condoo include seed predation by insects and habitat disturbance by feral pigs.

Slow growing, this Planchonella eerwah seedling grown by NPQ Gold Branch is over 2 years old.

The Black Plum Project

With critically low numbers, and with all the threats and challenges this species faces, if nothing is done, this species may simply disappear.

Our story begins with a message from a resident in Willow Vale, in the Gold Cost hinterland. He had contacted the Queensland Native Plants Group, Gold Coast Branch to see if we wanted a bag of Planchonella eerwah fruit to propagate new plants, from a tree growing on his property. As a member of the branch, I organised to pick up the bag of fruit, and Native Plants group began propagation.

Volunteer Colin busy digging holes in the rocky ground for the seedlings.

It has taken over 2 years for the seedlings to reach around 25 cm in height. Being slow growing, no doubt this has added to the species rarity.
From here, I decided to start this new project, in conjunction with Native Plants Group, to increase the population of Planchonella eerwah. I contacted the resident and was able to discuss being able to plant 10 seedlings on his and an adjacent neighbour where there 3 mature trees growing wild. This would boost the population by 9%.

Deborah and son Dan working away digging a hole. The ground is rock, and using a stake makes the hard work a little easier.

On Saturday 20th May 2004, four volunteers went to the private properties at Willow Vale, and we dug holes in the rocky ground and planted 10 plants. We installed steel mesh tree guards to prevent macropods and other animals from browsing on the seedlings. The good thing is that the seedlings grow straight and tall will ensure that the tall tree guards will be effective.

The residents have agreed to maintain the trees. To water them regularly while they establish, including any weeding, and providing regular updates and photographs to monitor their growth.

Species Recovery Action Plan

Planchonella eerwah seedling planted nearby to the parent plants where we first received the fruit to propagate.

She decides to make a list of the things that make her happy. She writes ‘plum-blossom’ at the top of a piece of paper. Then she stares at the paper, unable to think of anything else. Eventually it begins to get dark.

Neil Gaiman

Sometimes we need to ask ourselves why do we do the things that we do. In the case of the Black Plum, it is plain simple. Once you know something, such as knowing that a species is rare with a very small surviving population, and you have an opportunity to do something about, then you do it.

Sturdy tall mesh tree guards were installed. This may seem overkill, however, browsing macropods and other animals can severely limit the speed of growth of this slow growing species.

We have initiated discussions with the Department of Environment, Science and Innovation to develop a Recovery Action Plan for Planchonella eerwah. As we develop the plan for this species some key goals will be:

• increase known population over 10 years by 200%, planting in known habitat, helping to build up the population.
• draw relevant stakeholders together, from local governments, landholders and environmental groups to supply information and agree upon prioritues for management, research and montoring.
• Increase the profile of this rare and endangered species, and appreciation of our unique local flora.
• Research the species as a potentially viable bush tucker. The fruit are sour, but may have similar nutritional and health benefits as the Davidson Plum.

From left to right: Phil and Nicola (private landholders where some of the seedlings were planted), myself and Deborah who volunteered with her son on the planting day. Phil had previously cleared lantana from the site to prepare for planting. Lantana and other noxious weeds are big threats to the regeneration of the species.


  1. Wikepdia
  2. iNaturalist area map