The bolwarra (scientific name Eupomatia laurina) is a small tree or shrub part of the Eupomatiaceae plant family, which groups several ancient species native to the Australian continent. Bolwarra is also known as the copper laurel or native guava. The typical height is between 3 and 5 m but exceptional specimens can grow up to 15 m, with a 30 cm thick trunk. The bolwarra is found in the wild in Australia, as well as the island of New Guinea. It enjoys tropical areas and wet forests, as well as warm temperate climates. The bolwarra plant can be encountered from east Victoria to eastern New South Wales, north Queensland, Cape York Peninsula and Nowa Nowa in the south. The bolwarra is a typical under storey species in eucalypt forests or rainforests and it is a very old plant.
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Bolwarra leaves have a length between 5 and 20 cm, with an oblong-elliptic shape and a glossy surface. Bolwarra fruits are green and shaped like an urn, their size is 15 to 20 mm. They turn yellow as they become ripe and their interior resembles the one of a guava, with a mass of pale edible flesh that contains numerous seeds that are inedible. Fresh seeds germinate easily, the process begins after three weeks and needs about two weeks to complete.
The species has an attractive aspect, being a small tree or shrub with spreading branches and large green glossy leaves. Bolwarra blooms during the spring and summer, producing many flowers with an interesting creamy color and a sweet fragrance. The fruits are known for their edible pulp, which includes many seeds similar to the ones of a guava. As soon as the fruits become soft, they are ripe and can be consumed either raw or as a jelly or jam. It is also possible to prepare a flavoring after crushing the dried fruits.
The bolwarra is a very old plant, descending from the most primitive flowering species on the Gondwana mega-continent. It is known for its scented flowers and edible berries and it has the alternative names scented laurel or copper laurel, while the natives call it bolwarra. Besides Australia, it can also be found in New Guinea.
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During the winter, berries change their color from green to brown and become soft, which is a sign they are ripe. It is possible to consume them raw, without any preparation.
During the warm months, the bolwarra has dense green foliage consisting of glossy leaves. These turn into a beautiful coppery color in the spring and winter. In the dry season, the bolwarra plant can be helped by watering and mulching but it otherwise enjoys both sunny and partially shaded positions. Bolwarra is vulnerable to both hot dry winds and frost, which don't exist in its natural rainforest habitat. It can be cultivated in a pot with proper pruning and will reach a height of 5 m and a width of 3 m if it is allowed to expand.
Flowers are located in the leaf axils that line the stems. They emerge in the spring and summer and have a diameter of 2.5 cm, resembling the shape of daisies. Every individual flower has a very short life span of just one day but releases a strong perfume similar to ether. Flower buds have a cap like the eucalyptus, which gives them a strange structure. Numerous stamens from two or three rings, while staminodes that resemble petals also form rings. Many stigmas are located on the central disc. The strong perfume attracts tiny weevils with a brown color, which pollinate the flowers. They feed on the staminodes, ensuring that pollen reaches the stigmas in the process.
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The bolwarra is part of an ancient genus, which only includes two additional species. Both of these only grow in limited areas of the Australian continent, with more than 1000 km between them. The small bolwarra (scientific name E. bennettii) is only found in south-eastern Queensland and north-eastern New South Wales, while the northern small bolwarra (E. barbata) grows only in the rainforests of Queensland.
This species is found along the coastal rainforests of north Queensland to Victoria, as well as Papua New Guinea, as an understory plant. Bolwarra especially inhabits the edges of rainforests and can also be found in eucalypt forests if the climate is wet. It is tolerant of various soil types as well as both sunny and shaded positions, which makes it a popular garden plant. It has the additional benefit of a manageable size that allows cultivation in containers.
Like most other fruits, the ones of bolwarra are rich in vitamins C and a number of minerals. Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant that improves digestion and boosts immunity. Consuming the fruits will heal colds, catarrh and other infections faster. Bolwarra is a great diet choice while recovering from serious diseases.
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Fruits can be harvested and consumed straight from the wild. The bolwarra bark used to be employed in the crafting of twine but this traditional trade has probably become very rare today.
Soaking the bark allowed its fibers to be twisted together into two strands, which were traditionally rubbed against the thighs. The bark could also be strengthened by soaking in a solution of geebung bark and then used to make durable fishing lines. The fibre was extracted by crushing the bark between two rocks, and a tight roll of two fibers created the line. The sap of red bloodwood (Eucalyptus gummifera) could be applied to protect it against fraying.
The bolwarra wood has a coarse grain and a soft texture, with a yellow to brown color. Straight branches were sometimes used by the natives as spear shafts.
Bolwarra fruits have sweet pulp, with a soft texture and strong aroma. They can be eaten out of hand. The taste has been compared with a guava (Psidium quajava) or kiwi fruit (Actinidia spp.) but also has notes of nutmeg. Yoghurts and ice creams can be mixed with the bolwarra juice.
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The bolwarra fruit can be used in cooking to provide a distinctive spice and it is an ingredient in various dessert dishes, beverages and jams. Its flavour is so powerful that it is listed among the spices of Australia. It can easily overpower other aromas, so it should be paired only with ingredients that compliment it. The easiest way to use it as a spice is in dried form.
Both the seeds and cuttings are viable methods of propagation. If seeds are used, the first fruits will be produced after five or six years. Cuttings develop a lot faster and the first harvest is possible in two years. For best results, choose a protected location with partial shade.
The bolwarra plant is vulnerable to frost but it can otherwise be cultivated outside of its original rainforest habitat. The typical height is between 3 and 5 m, with some bigger specimens in rare cases. If the climate is cold, the glossy bolwarra leaves develop an attractive red or copper color. The bolwarra plant can have multiple trunks. It tolerates most soils, can be cultivated in containers and likes both sun and shade. Regular mulching is required to protect bolwarra plant from weeds and maintain the soil wet.
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