The quaintly named Snottygobble is one of 90 species of Persoonia. Four of these species occur in the south-west of Western Australia (WA). It is a key component of the mid-storey level of WA’s jarrah forests.
The snottygobble grows well on laterite (gravelly) soils. It rarely gets above five metres in height and is conspicuous because of its bright, green foliage and medium size. The foliage contrasts with the softer grey-green of the jarrahs and marris. In the eastern states of Australia, the Persoonia is referred to as a ‘geebung’, this being the aboriginal word for the fruit of the tree which was a source of food and medicine to the original inhabitants of the country.
Persoonia longifolia (Latin longu “long”, folium “leaf”) is also known as the upright snottygobble or the long-leaf persoonia. It is a graceful woodland tree which often has a weeping habit. The attractive bark is a dark reddish to bronze colour and consists of many layers which flake easily. When flowering, the deep yellow to orange flowers are arranged in short sprays. The slightly curved, narrow leaves measure 70 to 220mm long and are light green in colour. The fruits are a jellybean shape and hold one to two seeds. They have a green, fleshy outer layer which has been a source of bush tucker for the local Nyoongar aborigines. The Nyoongar also used the cambium layer of the tree for medicinal purposes.
When opened, the small, sweet fruit is mucous-like and green hence the first part of its rather singular name. The ‘gobble’ part apparently originated when pioneers observed pigs hastily consuming the fruit. The fruit is the size of a blueberry and is very tasty. It is an important food plant for emus and other native mammals. From June to July when the fruit is falling, emu droppings may consist almost entirely of Snottygobble fruit.
The Snottygobble has potential as a garden plant because of its moderate size, its drooping habit and coppery coloured flaky bark. The foliage is harvested for the cut flower market. However, it does not regenerate easily. The seed is dispersed by animals such as wallabies, kangaroos and emus.
The flowers of Persoonia longifolia are larger than those of the other south west species and are pollinated by native bees. The trees also attract the Western Brown Butterfly. Reproduction also takes place via root suckers. The flowers split into four narrow segments which curl back on themselves to reveal narrow stamens.
Snottygobbles grow in jarrah forest, mixed jarrah and karri or woodland and are found from Perth to Albany in Western Australia.
The other common species is Persoonia elliptica or the spreading snottygobble which also occurs in the jarrah/marri forest. It has broader, thicker leaves and a crumbly, cork-like bark. The flowers of Persoonia elliptica are yellow and it has light green oval leaves.
The snottygobbles are affected by dieback and are not easily propagated. Some sources state the seeds must pass through the digestive tract of an emu before they will sprout.