Pararchidendron pruinosum is a small tree native to the rainforests of Australia, Indonesia and Papua-New Guinea. In Australia, the species ranges from north Queensland to New South Wales. It is loved by many Australian native plant enthusiasts, and has quite a few common names that illustrate its different characteristics. The name “monkey’s earrings”, for example, is a colourful describer of the twisted yellow fruit pods that open to show their red lining and shiny black seeds. I can imagine a troop of monkeys draped in these pods like children swathed in costume jewellery.
Another of its common names, snow wood, describes the appearance of the tree when it bears fluffy white flowers opening in autumn. The flowers then yellow with age, and are borne on inflorescences growing in dense clusters on 3.5-10cm long peduncles (stems supporting the inflorescence). Another of Andreas Lambrianides’ photos shows the progression of the flowers very clearly–first as green buds yet to open, then to white and finally yellow as the flower matures (see another photo of these by Tony Rodd). These “pompoms” can be up to 20mm. in diameter, are slightly fragrant, and are impossible to ignore in a garden setting. Like people, butterflies love the flowers, and (in Australia, at least) snow wood is a host plant for tailed emperors (Polyura pyrrhus), a species of butterfly native to Queensland.
A third common name given to Pararchidendron pruinosum is less complimentary. The name “stinkwood” refers to the scent of this species when it is being cut down. I was not able to find a source that described which compounds are responsible for the smell, but did learn that the bark is a beautiful reddish-brown and that the trunk grows as a perfect cylinder without any buttressing. The wood does have some ornamental qualities, but overall it seems like this species is a great one to plant, but not to remove.