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Leaves and Flowers. Copyright B. Gray

Copyright CSIRO

Scale bar 10mm. Copyright CSIRO

Cotyledon stage, epigeal germination. Copyright CSIRO

10th leaf stage. Copyright CSIRO

Erythrophleum chlorostachys



Scientific Name

Erythrophleum chlorostachys (F.Muell.) Baill.

Baillon, H.E. (1870) Histoire des Plantes : 150.

Common name

Leguminous Ironwood; Red Ironwood; Black Bean; Cooktown Ironwood; Camel Poison; Ironwood, Cooktown; Ironwood; Ironwood, Leguminous; Ironwood, Red


Dead bark hard and horny to cut. Stem usually short. Wood extremely hard and heavy.


Leaflet blades about 3-5.5 x 2-4 cm, unequal-sided and very oblique at the base. Stipules small and inconspicuous (less than 1 mm long), caducous, visible only on young shoots. Young shoots densely clothed in short brown hairs. Leaflet stalks transversely wrinkled. Lateral veins forming a somewhat obscure series of loops inside the blade margin.


Flowering spikes about 15-25 mm diam. Petals about 3 mm long, much longer than the calyx, margins fimbriate. Ovary stalked, clothed in long tortuous hairs.


Pods flat, about 25-40 mm wide. Seeds flat, about 10 mm wide.


Cotyledons broadly elliptic, apex rounded, base auriculate, usually with five veins radiating from the base. First pair of leaves pinnate, usually with six leaflets, all parts sparsely pubescent. At the tenth leaf stage: leaves usually with 6-7 leaflets, each elliptic or ovate, apex obtuse, base unequal-sided; stem, terminal bud and petiole of compound leaf clothed in tortuous, pale hairs. Seed germination time 16 to 36 days.

Distribution and Ecology

Endemic to Australia, widespread in WA, NT, CYP and NEQ. Altitudinal range from sea level to 500 m. Normally grows in open forest but also found in monsoon forest and on rain forest margins.

Natural History & Notes

This is the Ironwood or Cooktown Ironwood which produces a very useful, dense, durable and decorative timber.

The leaves (particularly the leaves of sucker shoots) have caused losses in cattle, horses, sheep, donkey, goats and camels. Everist (1974).

People working with the timber should be careful as it is suspected of causing dermatitis and splinters are reputed to cause complications.

Shade trees near houses where the rain water is collected in tanks should be viewed with suspicion. There have been reported cases of poisoning caused by the leaves being washed into the tank and or roof gutters.

The timber of this species was formerly used in the manufacture of lawn bowls. Swain (1928).

Bark material of this species was active against tumor cell cultures. Collins et al. (1990).

This tree is well known as a stock poison. Cribb (1981).

Wood specific gravity 1.22. Cause et al. (1989).




Erythrophloeum laboucherii F.Muell. ex Benth., Flora Australiensis 2: 297(1864), Type: Same as for Laboucheria chlorostachys F. Muell. Erythrophleum laboucherii F.Muell., Annual Report Government Botanist & Director Botanic Garden for 1862-3. : (1863), Type: Same as for Laboucheria chlorostachys F. Muell. Laboucheria chlorostachya F.Muell., Journal of the Linnean Society, Botany 3 : 159(1859), Type: A plagis boreali-occidentabilibus Australiae usque ad flumen Burdekin tractus orientalis,. [Qld], F. Mueller.

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