Midgen Berry (Austromyrtus)
Once considered much larger, the Austromyrtus genus has recently undergone a bit of pruning leaving it with only 3 species. They are a genus of shrubs found in the Myrtaceae family, which includes plants such as tea trees, bottle brushes, lilypillies and eucalypts. The name is derived from Australis, Latin for southern and myrtus, the Greek word for myrtle.
Found between Sydney and South East Queensland, they mostly appear with small white flowers of 5 petals which are followed by soft edible berries. These are a great attractant for small birds. Known as a source of bush food, Austromyrtus species and their cultivars have well and truly endeared themselves to the home gardener due to their splashes of colour, versatility and hardiness.
The most common of this genus, Austromyrtus dulcis, is a spreading heath land shrub, equally at home on the range. Also known as the Midyim berry it will grow to 0.5 m high and up to 1.5m wide. After a blanket of beautiful small flowers in Spring, the Midyim will fruit profusely through early Summer and to a lesser extent in Autumn. The fruit are sweet with a mild cinnamon taste and are quite aromatic. I have found this to be a favourite among young children who will happily sit for long periods beside a shrub while they graze on the fruit.
It is interesting to note that the local costal region of Mudjimba has been named using an indigenous word meaning –‘place of the midyim shrub’.
Popular cultivars for the Austromyrtus are sold as ‘Blushing Beauty’ and ‘Copper Tops’. Both are small, compact shrubs with beautifully coloured foliage in the red hues. These can be pruned into an attractive low hedge or included in cottage style gardens.