Australian Native Plant Profile: Muntries (Kunzea pomifera)
Common Names: Muntries, Emu Apples, Native Cranberries, Munthari, Muntaberry, Monterry
Scientific Name: Kunzea pomifera
Muntries (Kunzea pomifera) are evergreen, prostrate, woody, perennial shrubs growing up to 0.3m high by 2m wide.
Characteristic features of Muntries
Muntries (Kunzea pomifera) have dense, glossy, circular leaves 5mm across on radial stems that form thick mats. In Spring Muntries produce attractive fluffy white flowers which are followed by edible succulent red and green berries about 1cm in diametre. The berries of Muntries have a spicy, stewed apple-like flavor. The berries or products made from Kunzea pomifera are becoming more popular and are seen often in Australian bushfood markets.
Horticultural uses of Muntries
Due to it's dense growth habit, Muntries can be used as an effective weed-suppressing ground cover. Kunzea pomifera would make an attractive addition to rockeries with similar native plants or alternatively planted as a member of a mixed border garden. Muntries have been successfully grown upright on low trellises and this is how some commercial growers choose to cultivate them.
Cultural uses of Muntries
Muntries hold significance in the traditional diet of the Narrindjeri people of the Coorong in the south-east of South Australia. The fruit of Kunzea pomifera were eaten both fresh or alternatively formed into a dried paste that could be traded with other tribes or stored for consumption over Winter. Early European settlers also incorporated the berries of Muntries in pies, jellies, preserves, chutneys and relishes. Interestingly, Kunzea pomifera was one of the earliest species from Australia to be introduced into cultivation in England in the late 1800s.
Limitations of Muntries
Kunzea pomifera requires a soil that is free draining, otherwise it may experience root rot resulting in plant death. Muntries also require planting in a sheltered location to avoid wind damage. As they are compact plants, you will need to protect any Muntries plants you grow from possible trample damage from pedestrians or livestock, keep them pruned back from footpaths.
Ideal growing conditions for Muntries
Kunzea pomifera is native to the Southern coast of Australia from Portland in Victoria to the Kangaroo Island in South Australia with inland incursions. Muntries can be naturally found in lighter sandy soils. Natural levels of rainfall across wild populations varies between 500 and 800mm annually, concentrated in the cooler months. Commercial crops of Muntries on Kangaroo Island experience approximately an average minimum temperature of 15oC and maximum of 24oC during January and an average minimum temperature of 8oC and maximum of 15oC during July with rainfall above 1mm occurring on average 77 days of the year.
Muntries plant culture
Propagation of Kunzea pomifera is typically done from cuttings, but they can also be grown from seed. Muntries will cope with both dappled shade and full sun. Muntries possess some frost tolerance however a moderate climate without frosts is preferable. Kunzea pomifera grows well on a variety of soils with a pH range from 6.0 to 8.0, however as it seems to do best at the higher end of this range so the addition of lime to raise the pH to around 8.0 may be beneficial. Avoid exposing you Muntries to significant periods of both water logging and drought. Reducing the amount of water you give your Muntries during Spring may help to promote flowering and there are suggestions that over-watering when the fruit is forming may weaken the flavour of the fruit.
Muntries should be transplanted during late Autumn or Winter. Tip prune them during Winter to thicken stems and prevent the stems from becoming leggy. If the plant becomes too dense, removing some of the stems at the same time will open up the bush. Under strong winds the branches of your Muntries plants may snap and fruit set is reduced so choose a planting site behind a wind break, either vegetative or artificial.
For best fruit production, Muntries can be fertilized with a low phosphorus native garden fertilizer on planting with two additional smaller applications in both spring and summer of each year. Mulching between plants may be beneficial in reducing weeds. No particular pest or disease problems commonly inflict Kunzea pomifera.