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Astroloma humifusum

Astroloma humifusum, commonly known as the native cranberry or cranberry heath, is a small prostrate shrub or groundcover in the heath family Ericaceae. The species is endemic to south-eastern Australia.[1]

Astroloma humifusum
Astroloma humifusum 4287.JPG
Astroloma humifusum (24880296312).jpg
Scientific classification
A. humifusum
Binomial name
Astroloma humifusum

Ventenatia humifusa Cav.
Astroloma denticulatum R.Br.


Astroloma humifusum grows as a spreading mat-like shrub up to 50 cm (20 in) high and 0.5 to 1.5 m (20 in to 5 ft) across.[2] Its hairy stems bear blue-green pine-like acute leaves 0.5-1.2 cm (0.2-0.5 in) long. The tubular flowers are up to 2 cm (0.8 in) long and appear from February to June, and are all red, unlike the red and green flowers of A. pinifolium. Flowers are followed by green globular berries around 0.4-0.6 cm (0.2 in) in diameter, which become reddish as they ripen.[3]


Astroloma humifusum was initially described as Ventenatia humifusa by Spanish botanist Antonio José Cavanilles in 1797,[4] before being given its current binomial name by prolific Scottish botanist Robert Brown in his 1810 work Prodromus Florae Novae Hollandiae.

Brown also described a second species, Astroloma denticulatum, based on plant material that he had collected at Memory Cove in South Australia. It was later treated as a subspecies of A. humifusum (A. humifusum var. denticulatum), but is currently treated as a synonym of A. humifusum.[5][6]

In Western Australia, the name Astroloma humifusum has been misapplied to Astroloma prostratum.[7]

Common namesEdit

Common names include cranberry heath and native cranberry,[1] as the fruit were eaten by early settlers.[2] An old name is juniper-leaved astroloma.[8] Common nineteenth century names were "Native Cranberries" and "Ground Berry".[9]

Distribution and habitatEdit

The range is in southeastern Australia, from Newcastle in the north in eastern and central New South Wales, into Victoria, south-eastern South Australia and Tasmania.[3][10][11] It is generally found in open woodland, both on sandstone and clay soils,[3] as well as upland bogs. Associated plant species include Eucalyptus fibrosa, Eucalyptus sideroxylon, and Kunzea ambigua.[12]


The eastern bettong (Bettongia gaimardi) eats the fruit.[13]


Requiring good drainage in the garden, Astroloma humifusum can be grown in rockeries.[14] The juicy berries are edible, although they are mostly made up of a large seed. They can be used to make jams or preserves.[2] The flavour of the berries has been described as "sickly sweet".[8]

The 1889 book 'The Useful Native Plants of Australia records that "The fruits of these dwarf shrubs have a viscid sweetish pulp, with a relatively large stone. The pulp is described by some as being "apple flavoured..."[9]


  1. ^ a b "Astroloma humifusum (Cav.) R. Br". Australian Plant Name Index (APNI), IBIS database. Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, Australian Government.
  2. ^ a b c Elliot, Rodger W.; Jones, David L.; Blake, Trevor (1985). Encyclopaedia of Australian Plants Suitable for Cultivation: Vol. 2. Port Melbourne: Lothian Press. p. 248. ISBN 0-85091-143-5.
  3. ^ a b c Fairley A, Moore P (2000). Native Plants of the Sydney District: An Identification Guide (2nd ed.). Kenthurst, NSW: Kangaroo Press. p. 87. ISBN 0-7318-1031-7.
  4. ^ "Ventenatia humifusa Cav". Australian Plant Name Index (APNI), IBIS database. Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, Australian Government.
  5. ^ "Astroloma denticulatum". Australian Plant Name Index (APNI), IBIS database. Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, Australian Government. Retrieved 22 March 2014.
  6. ^ "Type of Astroloma denticulatum R.Br. [family EPACRIDACEAE]". JSTOR Global Plants. Retrieved 22 March 2014.
  7. ^ "Name Currency Astroloma humifusum (Cav.)R.Br". FloraBase. Archived from the original on 22 March 2014. Retrieved 22 March 2014.
  8. ^ a b Bennett, George (1860). Gatherings of a naturalist in Australasia: being observations principally on the animal and vegetable productions of New South Wales, New Zealand, and some of the austral islands. John Van Voorst. p. 370.
  9. ^ a b J. H. Maiden (1889). The useful native plants of Australia : Including Tasmania. Turner and Henderson, Sydney.
  10. ^ J. M. Powell. "New South Wales Flora Online: Astroloma humifusum". Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust, Sydney, Australia.
  11. ^ "Astroloma humifusum". Electronic Flora of South Australia Fact Sheet. State Herbarium of South Australia. Retrieved 3 September 2011.
  12. ^ Benson, Doug; McDougall, Lyn (1995). "Ecology of Sydney Plants 3: families Cabombaceae to Eupomatiaceae" (PDF). Cunninghamia. 4 (2): 217–429. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-13. Retrieved 2016-05-11.
  13. ^ Hume, Ian D. (1999). Marsupial nutrition. Cambridge University Press. p. 319. ISBN 9780521595551.
  14. ^ Gray, Marilyn (2010). "Astroloma humifusum". Archived from the original on 29 March 2011. Retrieved 15 August 2011.