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, these plants produce attractive, fluffy white flowers that are followed by edible succulent red and green berries about 1cm in diametre. The berries have a spicy, stewed apple-like flavor. The berries or products made from this plant are becoming more popular and are seen often in Australian bushfood markets.
Due to its dense growth habit, Muntries can be used as an effective weed-suppressing ground cover. It would make an attractive addition to rockeries with similar native plants or alternatively planted as a member of a mixed border garden. These plants have been successfully grown upright on low trellises, and this is how some commercial growers choose to cultivate them.
Muntries hold significance in the traditional diet of the Narrindjeri people of the Coorong in the southeast of South Australia. The fruit 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 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.
Muntries requires a soil that is free draining, otherwise it may experience root rot resulting in plant death. It also requires planting in a sheltered location to avoid wind damage. As they are compact plants, you will need to protect any plants you grow from possible trample damage from pedestrians or livestock. Keep them pruned back from footpaths.
Ideal Growing Conditions
Muntries is native to the southern coast of Australia from Portland in Victoria to the Kangaroo Island in South Australia with inland incursions. It can be naturally found in lighter sandy soils. Natural levels of rainfall across wild populations vary between 500 and 800mm annually, concentrated in the cooler months. Commercial crops on Kangaroo Island experience approximately an average minimum temperature of 15°C and a maximum of 24°C during January and an average minimum temperature of 8°C and maximum of 15°C during July, with rainfall above 1mm occurring on average 77 days of the year.
Muntries Plant Culture
Propagation is typically done from cuttings, but they can also be grown from seed. The plant will cope with both dappled shade and full sun. Muntries possess some frost tolerance; however, a moderate climate without frosts is preferable. This plant grows well in 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, the addition of lime to raise the pH to around 8.0 may be beneficial. Avoid exposing your plants to significant periods of both waterlogging and drought. Reducing the amount of water you give it during spring may help to promote flowering, and there are suggestions that overwatering 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 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 afflict this plant.