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Desert Quandong - Santalum Acuminatum – Care Guide

The Santalum Acuminatum, more commonly known as Desert Quandong, is an
ornamental small tree/shrub native to the southern areas of Australia. It produces grey-green foliage and cream flowers with a reddish brown center, followed by red fruits that are produced all year round. This plant is unique in that it is a hemiparasite, which means that it requires the roots of a host plant for water and nutrients. They are not fussy about what they host onto; for example, woody ground cover and larger trees would be a good combination.


The fruits are commercially grown and marketed as a bushfood, and can be used to make jellies, jams, and fruit pies. The flesh surrounding the seeds can be eaten raw, or used as a dried produce. They are rich in Vitamins C and E, folate, magnesium and calcium. They are also alternative sources of iron and zinc. Of late, this plant is gaining popularity as an ingredient in food and skincare products due to its healing properties and nutritional value.


Quick Care

Botanical Name
Santalum acuminatum
Size Plant: Seedling pot, min 10 cm tall
Frost Tolerance: Yes
Drought Tolerance: Yes
Soil Type: Well drained soil
Sun: Full-sun
Size:  Up to 6m tall
Pots: Prefer the ground
Feeding: Feed a high-quality native plant food every 6 months.



The Santalum Acuminatum prefers to be exposed to full sun and can tolerate drought and moderate frosts. It is quite resilient and can tolerate different soil conditions and climates. Survival when young can sometimes prove to be challenging, but they love shade so it is advisable to use shade cloth guards or just plant them in a shady place. It is important to help them to make a host connection(s) as soon as possible.

Because it is drought and frost resistant, the Santalum Acuminatum is well-suited to climates which have dry summers and cool, wet winters. They hate humidity so avoid using clear plastic guards. Suitable climates are the lower rainfall, low humidity regions. They will not grow in northern Australia or in cold wet areas like the Otways, southern Victoria or east of the Great Divide.

This plant can go up to 90 days without water once established. Do not over water, especially in soil that holds moisture. Mulch is a very helpful to keep soil cool and let it dry out slowly.

Soil Condition
This plant is able to thrive in different soil types and pH, but it prefers soils that are nutrient poor and well-draining. It is susceptible to root diseases so it is best to avoid waterlogging.

The Santalum Acuminatum prefers full sun exposure. It needs high light intensity and low humidity.

Growing in Pots
It would be ideal to plant the Santalum Acuminatum with host plants, such as native grasses or peas. Avoid using hosts that dominate the pot or crowd the seedling. In the wild, their roots can reach as far as 10 metres, which means all plants in that space are potential hosts.

Fertilizing is not a must, but a healthy dose of balanced or slow-release fetilizer can definitely be beneficial.

The fruits are manually collected from the tree. While wild harvest remains as the
primary source, there has been an increased interest in commercial growth. The plants  can yield around 10 to 25 kg of fruit, which are then marketed as fresh or dried product. The kernel can also be eaten raw, roasted, or salted.