Backyard wildlife

with Spencer Shaw

One person’s weed can be another’s favourite plant, and the latter is certainly the case for me when it comes to the Bleeding Heart Homalanthus Populifolius.

These adaptable rainforest pioneers are naturally great for growing at the edge of Rainforests – which is when they can be annoying for farmers, as they are seen to be sneaking into pasture – or returning home (depends on your point of view).

They are also a vast, beautiful shade tree for the garden and any revegetation project in rainforest country.

Where Bleeding Hearts have been planted along our gravel driveway, we always have the beautiful little Emerald Doves on the ground, eating the fallen seed and, perhaps, the odd bit of gravel to aid with digestion.

Brown Cuckoo Doves enjoy the fruit when ripening on the tree, as do Bower Birds, Cat Birds and Lewins Honey Eaters, to name a few who we get to enjoy watching from our veranda, having their breakfast while we eat ours.

They are very fast-growing small tree reaching a height of about 6 metres, with a similar, if not wider, spread in the canopy.

When alone they can be quite bushy, but amongst company and with plenty of sun, they spread out and can take on a lovely layered horizontal branching form.

The common name comes from their heart shaped leaves turning blood red when they age, which makes for a spectacular contrast against the verdant foliage.

Bleeding Hearts are fast to mature and can fruit within 2-3 years, bearing fruit every year thereafter.

The fruit are small (about 5mm) and are form in clusters that turn purple when ripe, splitting to reveal a seed covered in an oily yellow aril.

For a beautiful fast-growing tree, which can fit in most gardens, provide shade for yourself and habitat for shade loving plants, along with being  a great food source for our local birds, its hard to go past a Bleeding Heart.