Plant of the Month – Macaranga tanarius

Macaranga (Macaranga tanarius) also known as Bullock’s Heart because of its has large heart shaped leaves to 25cm. 

This common, very fast-growing small tree can grow to 6m and approx. 4m wide. A flush of creamish-yellow flowers from spring to summer followed by green fruit capsules with black fruit attract birds such as Silvereyes and Rosellas. Macaranga is also the host plant for the Blue Triangle Butterfly and is known to shelter Graceful Tree Frogs under the glorious leaf canopy. The local indigenous people of this area used Macaranga trunks to make fishing spears while the fibre was used for twine.

Macaranga tanarius is excellent for revegetation, screening and filling bare areas to provide cover for other plants. It prefers full or filtered sun and well-drained soil for best growth results. 

Information supplied by Coolum Native Nursery

10 Replies to “Plant of the Month – Macaranga tanarius”

    • Hi Franca,
      That’s a very good question. It is native to the area and does seem to be becoming more dominant in the past few years. This led some people to consider it to be ‘weedy’. It does tend to grow in disturbed and regrowth areas, not surprising given that it is a pioneer species. One theory is that is becoming more dominant because it likes the nutrient-rich soil created by garden run off but as far as I know that has not been scientifically verified. The prevalence of many species on the coast is changing noticeably in recent years. At this point it is difficult to know what is causing this – it may be climate and weather-related or there may be other factors at play. At this point, I would still consider Macaranga tanarius a useful native plant is it is quick growing and provides a canopy for other plants to grow.
      All the best.

      • I suggest that it is more prevalent around our urban areas as that’s where we have high disturbance. As above, it is a pioneer species and will flourish on the edges of creeks where there is disturbance (pretty much all over the sunny coast)!
        It def should be used however managed to ensure it doesn’t inhibit too much space and stop other things from poking through the canopy.

  1. Hey there 👋
    I have a question. We have a macaranga that has volunteered next to our dam which has many green frogs and we love butterflies 🦋

    Our question is, is the plant OK near a pipe running from the dam?
    If not, can we replant elsewhere?
    We’d really like to let it live.
    Thanks 😊

    • Hi Louise,
      I don’t have a definite answer for you. Macarangas have a taproot as well as horizontal roots. They belong to a family Euphorbiaceae that is not generally associated with species that have invasive roots and I have not seem them listed anywhere as invasive.
      If you are concerned, you could have a go at transplanting. As a general rule, natives don’t like being moved but it’s worth a try. Or maybe another one will pop up exactly where you want it. I find that happens in my garden where I leave them if they are not going to outcompete without other natives I have growing and remove them if they are likely to overshadow.
      All the best,

  2. I call these compost trees due to the amount of leaves that drop during the normal cycle of growing.A number of years ago the council in my area decided to plant them in a library carpark and I thought you will be sorry and of course 3-5 years out they come so all those years wasted

    • Hi Philip,
      Apologies for late reply to your comment. Great name for Macanangas. I love trees that drop leaves and provide leaf mulch for surrounding plants. You’re absolutely right though. Choosing native trees, (or non-native for that matter) to use in car parks and for road landscaping requires careful consideration and a good knowledge of how plants grow, their characteristics, how long they live and how hardy they are.

  3. Are you able to advise. Noosa Council claim Macaranga trees “become unstable as they grow to a to a larger size, they often tip over and in this area they end up leaning on private fences causing damage and maintenance issues.”

    And further, “it was an unsuitable tree species issue with Macarangas”.

    The trees I am concerned about were healthy, about 10 years old and growing 1.5 m from any fence.

    Have notice that Macarangas are able to be pruned with objectionable limbs removed.

    • Hi Kevin,
      Not being an arborist, I really can’t comment on that. As Macaranagas are a pioneer species, nature probably hasn’t designed them for longevity. All trees close to properties and infrastructure do need to be checked for general health from time to time to pick up any structural weakness that may result in the shedding of limbs or destabilisation of the entire tree. If a tree is healthy, my preference would always be to trim rather than remove it whenever possible. Professional trimming generally strengthens the structure, giving a tree a good shape as well as removing height.That actually means that they are more stable and less prone to wind and storm damage.

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