Moreton Bay Chestnut (Castanospermum australe)

Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Moreton Bay Chestnut
Castanospermum australe

The seeds have a high saponin content[238]. Although the report does not elaborate, the saponins could probably be used as a soap substitute[K].

Wood – durable, resists decay, hard, heavy, polishes well, has a high resistance to the passage of electric current. Used in construction, cabinet making, carving etc[61, 144, 156, 167].

  • Medicinal Use

    The seed yields compounds called castanospermine that are under investigation as HIV inhibitors and might be useful in the treatment of AIDS[200, 238, 260].

    The seedpods are astringent[240].

  • Edible Use

    Seed – cooked[1, 46, 61, 105]. The fresh raw seed contains high levels of saponins[238] and can be harmful[34, 63]. The cooked seed tastes like a sweet chestnut[2]. It probably requires considerable leeching before it is safe to eat[144]. The Australian aborigines finely sliced the seeds and soaked them in running water for 10 days before roasting them and grinding them into a powder[193]. This powder could be stored for later use[193]. The seeds are about 3 – 4.5cm wide and are carried in pods 10 – 25cm long and containing 3 – 5 seeds[193, 260].

  • Cautionary Notes

    The immature seed is poisonous, though mature seeds are harmless[167, 240]. Another report says that the raw seed is poisonous and needs treatment to render it edible[193].

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – we have no details on this species but would recommend sowing it in a greenhouse as soon as it is ripe (if you can get hold of ripe seed!). Pre-soak stored seed for 24 hours in warm water and sow in a greenhouse. Prick out the seedlings into individual deep pots as soon as they are large enough to handle. Grow them on for at least the first winter in a greenhouse before planting out in the summer. Give the plants some protection from winter cold for their first year or two outdoors.
Requires a very well-drained[260] but moist high-grade soil and a very sunny position when grown in areas cooler than its natural climate[167, 200]. The plant only tolerates short-lived light frosts[200]. One report says that it tolerates temperatures down to about -5¡c in its native range but is less hardy elsewhere[200] whilst another report says that it succeeds in areas that are cooler than its natural range[167]. A third report says that it succeeds outdoors in south Cornwall[1]. The crushed leaves smell like cucumbers[193]. Flowers are produced on the old wood[260]. The flowers are rich in nectar and are pollinated by parrots in the wild[260]. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[200].
Australia – New South Wales, Queensland.

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.