An evergreen tree up to 40 m high in its native habitat. Young shoots and branchlets densely pubescent, apical buds shining glutinous. Compound leaves up to 15 cm long, composed of (1–)2–5(–7) pairs of opposite leaflets (often only one pair plus the terminal on flowering branches) more or less sessile. Petioles to 1.7 cm long. Petioles and rachis densely villose-pubescent. Rachis internodes 0.5–2 cm long. Leaflets with entire margins, upper surface dark green and glabrous, lower surface pale or glaucous, tomentose. Lateral leaflets narrowly oblong, 1–7 cm long, 0.5–1.5 cm wide, terminal leaflet always the largest with a mucronate-apiculate apex. The basal pair of lateral leaflets is always the shortest, and they increase in length toward the terminal leaflet. Flowers 2–3 cm across, solitary, borne from the leaf axils on stalks up to 3 cm long. Capsule ovoid-oblong, 0.8–1.5 cm long, pubescent (Bausch 1938; Cullen et al. 2011; Wallace 2015).
USDA Hardiness Zone 8b-11
RHS Hardiness Rating H4
Conservation status Not evaluated (NE)
Native to southeastern New South Wales and adjacent Victoria, Australia, where it is a component of the warm-temperate rainforest at lower elevations and often a dominant species in the cool-temperate rainforests of higher elevations. It was described in 1863–1864 by Ferdinand von Mueller, then director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, after having been discovered by Charles Moore, who was himself director of the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney (Wallace 2015).
It was introduced to RBG Kew in 1915 – a surprising delay – presumably from RBG Sydney, flowering for the first time in the temperate house in 1921 (Bean 1981). It was later tested outdoors and found to grow well in the very mild gardens of the western fringes of Britain, and around the coasts of Ireland, for example at Glenveagh Castle, County Donegal, Ilnacullin, County Cork, and Mount Usher, County Wicklow, where the tallest example in the UK and Ireland stands at 21 m tall, 53 cm dbh in 2015. Others may be found in such gardens as Inverewe in northwest Scotland, Muncaster Castle in Cumbria, the Clyne Gardens in Swansea, Wales and at Greenway, Devon (The Tree Register 2018). While reasonably hardy in mild localities such as these, it can still be killed by exposure to excessive cold – E. moorei did not survive the very cold winter of 2010–2011 at RHS Rosemoor garden in Devon where the temperature dipped to –16°C (Horticulture Week 2011).
Bean went on to say that while E. moorei was ‘not so attractive in bloom as [E. glutinosa] … the foliage is handsome and the growth elegant’ (Bean 1981). Even if one was to differ on the first point, it would be all but impossible to disagree with the latter. The pinnate foliage with relatively narrow, elegant leaflets with mucronate tips is distinctive, and helps to separate E. moorei from many of its relatives, including the hybrid E. × hillieri. It is surprising then, as with E. cordifolia, that E. moorei appears to be so rarely cultivated in warmer regions of Europe where it ought to grow very well and make a fine addition to ornamental landscapes. In preparing this account, barely a single mention of it growing in these areas could be found.
It is at least cultivated in its native Australia, and in New Zealand, for example at the Eastwoodhill Arboretum near Gisborne (MacKay 1996) and at Dunedin Botanic Garden (Wikimedia Commons 2017). It is also cultivated on the west coast of North America, although being ‘the least hardy species’ (Cullen et al. 2011) it is relatively rare here.
Even before E. moorei was formally described to science settlers in Australia were cutting it to use its timber for construction and later cabinet making, and to clear land for settlement and agriculture. Felling of the forests where the species is indigenous continued for approximately 100 years until c. 1950, but nowadays the vast majority of the natural populations occur inside protected areas (Wallace 2015).