When first mentioning the Snottygobble tree, one is likely to hear snorts of derision. However, snottygobble is its official, common name. The Snottygobble is one of 90 species of the genus Persoonia. Four of these species can be found in the south-west of Western Australia (WA). The snottygobble is common throughout WA's jarrah forests and a key component of the mid-storey level of such habitats.
In the eastern areas of Australia, the Persoonia is referred to as 'geebung'. This was the local aboriginal word for the fruit of the tree. The geebung was a source of food and medicine to the indigenous tribes of the country.
The snottygobbles of Western Australia grow in jarrah forest, mixed jarrah and karri or woodland and are found from Perth to Albany in Western Australia.
The snottygobble grows well on laterite (gravelly) soils. It normally stays under five metres in height which makes it stand out among the taller eucalypts. It has bright, green foliage which contrasts with the softer grey-green of the jarrahs and marris.
The upright snottygobble (also known as the long-leaf persoonia) has the Latin name of Persoonia longifolia (longu 'long', folium 'leaf'). Its habit is graceful and weeping. The attractive bark of this woodland tree is dark reddish to bronze in colour. The bark consists of many layers which flake off easily. During the flowering season, short sprays of deep yellow to orange flowers appear. The narrow, slightly curved leaves are 70 to 220mm in length and are light green in colour. The fruits are the shape of a jellybean and hold one to two seeds. The seeds have an outer layer which is green and fleshy. This outer covering is a source of bush tucker for local Nyoongar aborigines. The cambium layer was also used for medicinal purposes.
The fruit is small and sweet, about the size of a blueberry. It is very tasty. When opened, the flesh is mucous-like and green. This accounts for the first part of its rather singular name. The latter part of the name apparently originated when early settlers observed their pigs gulping down the fruit. The snottygobble is popular with emus and other native mammals as a food source. The fruit is ripe from June to July and, during this time, emu droppings may consist almost entirely of Snottygobble fruit.
Because of its moderate size, its attractive, drooping habit and coppery coloured flaking bark, the tree has potential as a garden specimen. However it has been incredibly hard to regenerate and there are no easy ways to procure the plant. The foliage is harvested in the wild for the cut flower market. Natural dispersal is through the droppings of animals such as emus, wallabies and kangaroos.
Persoonia longifolia has larger flowers than those of the other south west species. Native bees pollinate the flowers which also attract the Western Brown Butterfly. When the flowers split, the four narrow segments curl back on themselves to reveal narrow stamens. Reproduction also takes place via root suckers.
Persoonia elliptica or the spreading snottygobble is also common and, like its narrow-leaved cousin, is found in the jarrah/marri forest. The leaves are broader and thicker and the bark is crumbly and cork-like. The leaves are oval and light green in colour and the flowers are yellow.
Like the jarrah that it shares its home with, the quaintly named snottygobble is affected by dieback and is not easily propagated. Some sources state the seeds must pass through the digestive tract of an emu before they will sprout. Whatever the trick is, there are very few people who have been successful at propagating this plant.