POM POMS: The African locust bean, or Parkia clappertoniana, has blooms that   look like Christmas decorations.
POM POMS: The African locust bean, or Parkia clappertoniana, has blooms that look like Christmas decorations. Contributed

GARDENING: Stunning choices for shade

WHY is it that you rarely see more than a handful of shade tree species in commercial landscapes these days?

There are hundreds of tree species that could be selected for the same landscape position.

Could the answer be that be that we live in the Google Earth generation? That is it is easier to scan the garden location from afar than to inspect the landscape location in person then use a programmed plant list that would never have had unique trees species listed.

Randia fitzalani has strongly perfumed white flowers. Contributed

A walk through the Rockhampton Botanic Gardens or the Kershaw Gardens will reveal some spectacular small shade trees that could have great potential in streetscapes or commercial landscapes.

The following is of some attractive yet unique small shade trees that deserve consideration for that landscape.

One of the most attractive plants found flowering in the Botanic Gardens was the Native Gardenia or Randia fitzalani.

This dense, large shrub, with large, dark green, glossy leaves, will grow in either sunny or shaded moist positions.

Strongly perfumed, open-petalled, white flowers appear from spring to late autumn, followed by large, edible yellow fruits in winter.

This species is found from Central Queensland through to Cape York and grows into an attractive small tree that is suitable for street plantings or a shade tree in your own garden.

Randia fitzalani is known in some parts of Queensland as the Yellow Mangosteen.

Randia fitzalani has large, edible yellow fruits in winter. Contributed

Then there is the African Locust Bean or Parkia clappertoniana with blooms that are so unique as they look like Christmas decorations hanging on a tree.

I received numerous calls and letter about this tree that looks like a Jacaranda but is covered with velvet-red pom-pom flowers near the playground. Why not visit the Rockhampton Botanic Gardens this weekend?

Another local native tree with a unique fruit that birds find irresistible is Glochidion ferdinandi, or the cheese tree, which refers to its cheese- shaped fruit. The tree grows up to 12m high with a dense, bushy, spreading crown. Although it has attractive greenish-yellow flowers, it is the fruit that becomes a bird magnet, from November to February when each year the tree is laden with fruit.

Growing along the Yeppen Lagoon is the Millettia pinnata or Pongamia, a hardy medium sized shade tree with shiny green leaves that makes a useful street tree. Throughout the year attractive night scented pea-shaped flowers that vary in colour from pink to mauve in colour will appear. The new growth which appears at the end of flowering is coppery-coloured. Leaves can be used for stock feed in times of drought.

One more member of the Grevillea family that creates a lot of interest during February is the Wheel of Fire or Stenocarpus sinuatus. This bushy pyramid shaped tree produces spectacular clusters of red flowers during the warmer months of the year. The flowers are unique in pattern as they look like they have been arranged like the spokes of a wheel. A good example of this tree can be found growing along the Mount Archer end of Frenchville Rd.

The Cape Chestnut or Calodendrum capense is one tree should be used more often in Central Queensland. It is a very showy evergreen tall tree that forms a dense symmetrical crown. In summer this tree comes into its own with a spectacular display of pink flowers at a time when many other flowering trees have finished.

Saraca Thaipingensis is a magnet for birds and butterflies. Contributed

Some trees like the handkerchief tree or Saraca Thaipingensis will become a magnet for birds and butterflies attracted to the rich nectar of the flowers.

It is an attractive ornamental tree grown for its lovely foliage and flowers. The tree is named for long hanging pendulous new growth that resembles a handkerchief.

The fragrant flowers start bright yellow in colour that gradually turns to orange and then red as they mature. New growth of leaves is glossy green and soft to touch. The handkerchief tree has been well used as a winter flowering street tree in Cairns.