Davidson plum has long been a food source for Indigenous Australians and for colonial settlers since the early 1900s. It was wild harvested for many years, and the popularity of the fruit as an ingredient for a range of food products and growing market demand, has seen the establishment of commercial plantations since 1990.
There are three species of Davidsonia endemic to Australia, each with their own particular natural distribution and physical characteristics. The trees have several forms ranging from single trunked with a few branches and large compound leaves, which grow from the top part of the trunk to multi-trunk forms covered in dense foliage to the ground. The fruit of one of the southern species grows in clusters on stems that emerge from the trunk, generally below the branches, and is oval shaped and 3–6cm in diameter. The fruit of the northern species emerges from stalks at the top of the branches and is round with a much larger diameter of 6-12cm.
Typical of many native food industries, the Davidson’s plum industry faces a concurrent oversupply of niche markets and an undersupply of potential large-scale markets.
Facts and figures
- Davidson plum has long been a food source for Indigenous Australians and was used by early European settlers for jams and sauces
- Davidson plum is not used as a fresh fruit because of its sour taste, however it is a sought after ingredient for a wide range of sweet and savoury foods
- Davidson plum has a higher anti-oxidant capacity than the Blueberry and higher levels of lutein than Avocado
- Established as a seedling, the tree will bear fruit 3–4 years after planting and reach full production up to 15 years after planting
- Davidson plum are predominantly sold domestically
Accurate information is not readily available for the wider native foods industry but a 2012 stocktake of the industry provides good estimates of industry characteristics, production figures and product value.
The market for Davidson plum was originally built on wild-harvested fruit but from 2013, supply was almost exclusively from plantations. The two New South Wales species of Davidson plum are listed as endangered in the wild and permits are required (but no longer issued) for wild harvest of the fruit. Permits are also required for harvest of wild Davidson plum in Queensland.
Davidson plum plantations vary in size from small-scale plantings of less than 1,000 trees, where the enterprise is a hobby or a second income, to commercial-scale plantings of over 1,000 trees. Generally, Davidson’s plums are commonly one of several native food species cultivated in the same farming business. Most growers sell their fruit fresh or frozen to food manufacturers, who in some cases are also producers of Davidson plum. A small number of producers value-add their own product or contract another business to value-add, and sell under their own label.
Throughout the 2000’s some plantings of Davidson plum were removed or not maintained commercially, due to lack of a market for the fruit or difficulties with crop management. The prospects of marketing Davidson plum are regarded as positive, supported by forecast increases in production volumes through the expansion of plantings and managing and harvesting fruit from previously mothballed plantations.