What is the Idiot Fruit?

There’s a fruit that every primary school-aged child in Australia knows about. It has the kind of name that sends seven year old’s flying across the ground in fits of laughter.

Idiospermum australiense, or the Idiot Fruit, is a species endemic to the top of Australia. Found only in the Daintree Rainforest it is believed by many to be the eldest living flowering tree.

What makes it unique

Idiot fruits have genealogical characteristics that match fossils from over 88 million years ago! One of the most peculiar characteristics of the Idiot Fruit is its seed leaves. All modern flowering trees have one or two seed leaves. These seeds generally are able to produce a single sprout.

Not the Idiot Fruit tree though. It doesn’t follow the modern rules of botany, it apparently makes up its own!

Idiot Fruit seeds are abnormally large, approximately the size of an adult’s fist. These seeds also have up to eight seed leaves. Once buried, the seed splits into four and is able to produce multiple shoots.

Discovery of the Idiot Fruit

The bizarre plant was first discovered in the late 1800s by timber cutters. They alerted their finding to a German botanist however by the time he arrived the specimen had been destroyed in land clearing. It was thought the species was lost forever until it was rediscovered in 1971.

However, it wasn’t found again until 1971 when it emerged under mysterious circumstances. Nearby, a grazier woke up one morning to find several of his cows had mysteriously died. Thinking they’d been poisoned; he called the police. The police called a vet, and following an autopsy they found Idiot Fruit seeds whole inside their stomachs.

Following examination of the seeds it was released they had made the botanical discovery of the century!

It’s believed that the plant is over 120 million years old and that seedlings could grow to be up to a metre tall.

Finding it in the Daintree

If you’re trying to spot the Idiot Fruit tree in the Daintree, good luck! Part of the reason this tree went undiscovered is that the tree is incredibly generic looking.

The Idiot Fruit tree is an evergreen with small white flowers, making it remarkably indistinct from many other species.

Additionally, they are only found in a very small section of the Daintree highlands. Never be afraid to ask your guide if they are aware of where some are, you never know what they might say, but maybe don’t get your hopes up.

The Idiot Fruit is quite the fascinating and unusual plant! We wouldn’t expect anything less from the stunning Daintree. You can explore the many unique species of the Daintree with our Daintree Rainforest tours! Our guides will teach you all about this magical part of Australia and you might even spot a wild animal or two.

Related article: Rare and Ancient Plants of the Daintree Rainforest