Backhousia myrtifolia

Grey Myrtle / Cinnamon Myrtle

Family: Myrtaceae

An attractive tree, reaching 30 metres tall. It has a general lilly-pilly appearance. Can spread to 10 m wide or more. The bark is brown with finely flaky bark.

It grows along most of the entire coast of NSW, extending into the tablelands and central western slopes. Extends in Qld but its southern limit is around Bega, NSW.

It is a common tree on freshwater creeklines in sandstone vegetation, especially in places like the Blue Mountains of NSW where it can form dense dominant stands along drainage lines in sheltered gully dry sclerophyll forests. It is also common in places such as western Sydney creeklines on alluvial soils, as well as rainforests on the North Coast and Royal National Park where it can grow into a large tree.

Backhousia produce simple and opposite leaves. In this species. The leaves are somewhat leathery, to about 8 cm long and 4 cm wide with a sweet odour when crushed, somewhat like cinnamon; generally dark green. The large oil glands can be seen with a hand lens.

The flowers are produced in a cluster known as a dichasia (branches of flowers in opposite pairs), in leaf axils. Flowers are cream/white in colour with the sepals to about 1 cm long and the petals only 3 mm long. Being a myrtle, it is the stamens of the flowers that are the showy parts, produced in large number to about 6 mm long.

Backhousia produce a dry capsule-like fruit (schizocarp), which splits apart to release small seeds. In this species, it is about 6 mm long. 

In the garden

A very hardy tree with an attractive canopy and overall form. Relatively easy to grow, although many Myrtaceae trees can take a while to establish and grow. But this is balanced by trees being very long-lived.

It will provide dense shade. Needs some room to grow as it will spread out. Expect a 10 m tree if grown in a garden.

There is a compact/dwarf form available which is observed to flower most of the year (see references below).

Likes a well-drained soil with some enrichment.

Pleasant smelling foliage and attractive flowers.

May be susceptible to Myrtle Rust.


Propagation from seed or soft-wood cuttings.

Other information

See references for the smaller compact form available.

Can regenerate from seed bank after fire as well as branch shoots and suckering stems/trunks.

Backhousia is a genus of 8 species, endemic to New South Wales and Queensland. NSW currently has 5 species.

Backhousia – named in honour of James Backhouse (1794 – 1869), a botanist and missionary for the Quaker Church in Australia.

myrtifolia – having leaves resembling a myrtle (Myrtus genus).

This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild. Very common

Plants of South Eastern New South Wales – Backhousia myrtifolia profile page https://apps.lucidcentral.org/plants_se_nsw/text/entities/backhousia_myrtifolia.htm

Plant Native – Cinnamon Myrtle profile page                              https://plantnative.com.au/product/cinnamon-myrtle/ 

Wikipedia – Backhousia myrtifolia profile page                    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Backhousia_myrtifolia

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.

By Dan Clarke