Syzygium is the largest genus of Myrtaceae in Malesia with between 500 and 1000 species; the full range of the genus is from Africa east to the Hawaiian Islands and from India-southern China south to New Zealand. There are only c. 60 species in Australia. Many species are utilised as timber trees; other uses include cloves and cottage fruit trees. The genus has wide-ranging local medicinal uses, from application as a local anaesthetic to being used to treat syphilis and Monilia. Syzygium especially is an important element in the rainforest ecosystem, being a food source for blossom-feeding and fruit-eating animals.
Botanists studying Australian rainforest species rarely study their group in Papuasia also. The southern New Guinea rainforests provide an opportunity to study a group across a wide area and assess the systematic significance of the variation ecountered, something which is impossible in the fragmented Australian rainforest patches. To best comprehend the Australian situation, comparison should be made with that in New Guinea.
There are significant problems to be resolved at generic level as doubts exist as to the validity of at least some of the presently recognised relatives (such as Acmena, Acmenosperma, Cleistocalyx, Piliocalyx, Waterhousea, etc). The taxonomy and morphology of the Australian and Malesian species is being studied by Lyn Craven (with Tom Hartley for those in Papuasia). The phylogeny will be studied with Paul Gadek, James Cook University, Cairns using both morphological and molecular data sets. Contact is being maintained with John Dawson, Victoria University of Wellington, who is revising the Syzygium group for Flore de la Nouvelle-Calédonie et dépendances.
Due to the inherent difficulties in writing identification keys for the often very inadequate specimens that people need to name, development of interactive identification systems will be given high priority.
Hartley, T.G. and Craven, L.A. (1977) - A revision of the Papuasian species of Acmena (Myrtaceae). J. Arnold Arb. 58: 325-342.
Craven, L.A. (1990) - One new species each in Acmena and Eucalyptopsis and a new name in Lindsayomyrtus (all Myrtaceae). Aust. Syst. Bot. 3: 727-732.
Craven, L.A. (in press) - Cleistocalyx fullagarii transferred to Syzygium (Myrtaceae). Muelleria
Craven, L.A. and Matarczyk, J.A. (in press) - Acmena. In 'Flora of Australia'
Craven, L.A. and Matarczyk, J.A. (in press) - Acmenosperma. In 'Flora of Australia'
Craven, L.A. and Matarczyk, J.A. (in press) - Eugenia. In 'Flora of Australia'
Craven, L.A. and Matarczyk, J.A. (in press) - Syzygium. In 'Flora of Australia'
Craven, L.A. and Matarczyk, J.A. (in press) - Waterhousea. In 'Flora of Australia'