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What is a Brisbane Box?

By Vasanth S.
Updated May 16, 2024
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The brisbane box is a tall evergreen tree that is classified within the Myrtaceae plant family. It has a rounded form and features oval leaves. This tree is usually planted in parks or along sidewalks. It is a favorite among landscapers since it is extremely drought-tolerant. A common problem with this tree is chlorosis, which is a plant disease characterized by yellowing leaves.

Scientifically, the brisbane box is called Lophostemon confertus, or Tristania conferta, depending on the classification system used. It is also known as the Australian bush box. This species has one cultivar, or variety, called variegata. It features yellow streaks on the leaves.

The brisbane box is native to eastern Australia. It is thought to be named after the Brisbane River located in Queensland. The brisbane box has been introduced to North America.

Generally, the brisbane box grows 60 feet (18 m) in height and spreads about 40 feet (12 m). In the early years of growth, this tree has a narrow, upright form, which eventually becomes broad with age. The bark of the tree is brown, and it easily peels away to reveal a lighter wood. The leaves are generally 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) long and about 2 inches (5 cm) wide.

The flowers of the brisbane box are creamy white and form in clusters that range in length from 3-7 inches (7-17 cm). Typically, the flowers bloom in the summer. After the flowers have fallen, a fruit with a woody exterior develops.

This tree can grow in different soil types including loamy, sandy, or clay. It is tolerant to soil that has a high pH as well as a high salt content. Well-draining soil is required for newly planted trees. As the tree becomes established in the soil, it doesn't need that much water to survive.

The brisbane box is relatively maintenance-free. It is recommended to prune the tips of younger trees to promote denser growths. Younger trees are susceptible to frost damage, so they should be somewhat sheltered during the winter.

A more serious problem which affects the brisbane box is chlorosis. It is a condition where the tree doesn't produce enough chlorophyll, which is the pigment that gives leaves their green color. There are several causes of chlorosis including poor soil drainage, damaged roots, and nutrient deficiency. If the problem is with the roots or soil, tilling and mulching are recommended measures to take. If nutrient deficiency is the cause of chlorosis, a water soluble nutrient solution should be applied onto the foliage, trunk, or soil.

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Discussion Comments
By orangey03 — On Feb 14, 2012

It is strange to me that brisbane box trees are planted beneath concrete on sidewalks. I know that the roots have room to extend beneath the surface, but I wonder what the city does to allow the tree room to grow wider.

The ones I have seen are encased in brick and concrete not far from the base of the trunk. It seems that these trees are only allowed a few more inches of growth room.

I wonder what they do if the tree happens to grow wider than they had anticipated. Would it break through the concrete, or would the concrete choke it out?

By shell4life — On Feb 13, 2012

@wavy58 – To me, the fruits look even weirder than the blooms. Have you ever seen the fruit that develops after the flowers have gone?

They look like green olives that have been smashed in on one end and toasted. That is the best way I know to describe them.

Up to their flat end, they look like ordinary green fruit. The end is ringed with a brown woody substance, which also is present right in the center.

I've never heard of anyone eating this fruit. I would imagine that it is either toxic or simply not good.

By wavy58 — On Feb 13, 2012

@seag47 – Those certainly do sound like brisbane box trees. My local park is full of these, and they do have unique flowers.

I photographed them once, because I had never seen blooms quite like these. Tiny white petals form the base of the flower, which almost resembles a dogwood's bloom. There is a fuzzy green center, but the most bizarre part is the star-shaped top that protrudes from it.

Five white arms extend out past the bloom, and these are covered in what looks like tiny little wiry antennas topped with pollen. They really look like something from another planet.

By seag47 — On Feb 12, 2012

Can anyone describe the brisbane box flowers to me? There are some trees growing down my street that might just be brisbane box, because they do have little white flower clusters and leaves that stay green all year.

They have been planted in single rows down Main Street. A section of earth and grass about four feet wide extends down the length of the street, and the trees add a nice natural touch to the area.

The flowers on them are kind of strange looking. From a distance, they appear fluffy, but once you get up close, you can see that actual flower petals are underneath the fluff.

By bagley79 — On Feb 11, 2012

I think brisbane box trees are beautiful no matter what their size, but when you see a row of full grown brisbane box trees, it can be really stunning.

There is a park close to our house where there are several of these trees that are close to 50 feet tall. They really make quite a statement.

I planted a few brisbane box trees in my yard and have been able to get them established and now they are close to 5 years old.

When some of them started to show yellow leaves, I asked my local nursery what I should do. Once I put some time release fertilizer on them, they snapped out of it. I apply this fertilizer twice a year and have not had any problems since.

When the brisbane box trees flower they have a really nice fragrance that adds to their charm. They also do well in our humid climate which is always a big plus for me.

By LisaLou — On Feb 10, 2012

@John57 - I don't think deer are too particular when it comes to the type of evergreens they like to rub on and mess with.

I have several types of evergreen trees on my property, and it doesn't seem to matter which ones the deer bother.

It seems like it is more of a location thing than the type of tree. I have some brisbane box trees and the deer have bothered them along with several other types of trees.

I plant evergreen trees because I like to see color during the winter months. It is nice to look outside and see some green instead of brown all the time.

One of the things I like best about the brisbane box trees is they are tolerant of dry weather. There are many months during the hot summer when we don't get much rain. Once the brisbane box trees are established they will handle these dry conditions well.

If I had to worry about watering all the evergreen trees on my property, many of them would never make it.

By John57 — On Feb 09, 2012

Will deer bother brisabne box trees? I have some evergreen trees in my yard, but the deer have ruined many of them.

I have been looking for some varieties of evergreens that are deer tolerant and wonder if the brisbane box trees would be.

Many winters I have to put fencing or some kind of protection around my evergreens if I don't want the deer to bother them.

The few times I have not gone to the effort to do this I have been sorry. Some of my neighbors evergreen trees have become pretty top heavy because of all the damage the deer have done to their trees.

By julies — On Feb 09, 2012

I live in California and it is common to see brisbane box trees planted along the sidewalks in our community.

Most people probably aren't familiar with the particular type of evergreen trees these are, but my dad grew up on a tree farm, so he is always educating us on the different trees.

I think one of the reasons evergreens are so popular because they look nice all year long and require very little maintenance once they are established.

Like a lot of evergreen trees, the brisbane box tree is not a real fast growing tree. It takes a long time for them to reach their full height, but they still look good along the way.

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