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White beech

White beech

Gmelina leichardtii

Uncommon giant casts purple carpet of fruit

The white beech is a unique and uncommon tree in the Lamiaceae family.

The light-grey bark on its cylindrical trunk bestows its name. Specimens of this semi-deciduous tree typically reach 15- 30m in height, though historically, mature trees have been giants of the forest, towering to 60m.

Losing approximately half of its canopy in spring, the thinned crown and significant leaf-fall may catch the attention of Mary Cairncross visitors.

During late summer white beech carpets the forest floor with large, bright purple fruit.  This colourful crop is enjoyed by many birds including the paradise riflebird, topknot and wompoo pigeons.

The white beech’s natural range once extended from northern Queensland to southern New South Wales.  Prized for house, cabinetry and boat timber it was heavily logged and is now considered uncommon.  Seeds are difficult to germinate and as such white beech has not recovered from over-harvesting as successfully as other species, for example red cedar.