Callistemon brachyandrus

Mallee Bottlebrush, Prickly Bottlebrush and Prickly Mallee Bottlebrush

Family: Myrtaceae

Callistemon brachyandrus is usually a small to medium shrub, growing to 3 metres tall by 2 metres wide. Young growth is softly hairy.

Callistemon brachyandrus occurs in the far inland regions of New South Wales (western plains and far western plains), as well as central Victoria and mostly in the east of South Australia (with a few scattered records though more remote parts of SA and Qld).

Callistemon spp. have simple and alternate to spiral leaves (never opposite as in Melaleuca). In this species, leaves are very narrow and tubular, to 30 mm long and 1 mm wide; prickly.

In Callistemon species, flowers are usually arranged in spikes (the “bottlebrush”) which are produced at the terminals but which the stem then grows past, into a leafy shoot. Flowers have five small circular sepals and five circular petals which persist on the flowers.
Like many other Myrtaceae genera, the flowers are conspicuously staminate with each flower having many stamens surrounding one carpel. The stamens are typically free although may be fused at the basal parts (a generally useful identifying feature for the genus to distinguish it from Melaleuca). The pedicels of the flowers are very short. In this species, the striking inflorescences are comparitively small, about 6 centimetres long and to 3 cm wide; stamens red with golden anthers. The flowering period extends from spring to autumn with sporadic flowering at other times. Each flower is about 5 mm wide with stamens to 10 mm long.

Capsules are to 5 mm diameter, arranged in the same spike-like structure along branches.

In the garden

The Prickly Bottlebrush could be grown in an informal hedge or background shrub. Pruning after the main flowering period will keep plants bushy and flowering prolifically.

Author’s note: We first encountered this free-flowering Bottlebrush growing in a Taree garden on the North Coast of New South Wales. Cuttings were collected and now specimens are scattered throughout our cold climate garden. Our plants have proved to be very hardy and cope with drought and frost. They have developed into small shrubs about 1 metre tall.

Full sun is preferred for maximum flowering. It is naturally found on sandy soils and these are recommended for best results. Useful shrub in dry and low-humidity areas.


Propagate from seed and cuttings.

Other information

The species was described and illustrated in the Journal of the Horticultural Society of London 1849 Volume 4. The seed was said to have been collected on the north coast of Australia in 1843. This may have been an error as Callistemon brachyandrus is an inland species and unlikely to be found on the coast.

The genus Callistemon has been subject to recent taxonomic revision with early and recent botanists including Ferdinand von Mueller and Lyndley Craven (deceased in 2014) proposing to ‘lump’ the genus into Melaleuca and others. Craven et al. (2014) published new species combinations which included the renaming of all Callistemon species to Melaleuca, based on evolutionary relationships and DNA evidence and other features.

Currently, the NSW Herbarium advises that the Callistemon genus can still be used. There are currently about 30 species of Callistemon, which are found in all states of Australia as well as New Caledonia. About 28 are endemic to Australia. NSW currently recognises 24 species. New species have been described in the last 20 years.

Regenerates after fire from epicormic and basal shoots as well as from the seedbank.

Callistemon – From the Ancient Greek – Callos (κάλλος) – meaning “beautiful” (which is changed to κάλλη to describe a noun) and and stêma (στῆμα) meaning “stamen”, referring to the very showy staminate flowers of the bottle-brush inflorescences.

brachyandra – from the Greek brachys (βραχύς) meaning “short” or “brief” and andras (άνδρας) meaning “man” – referring to the comparitively short stamens (male parts) of the flowers.

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

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Callistemon brachyandra profile page https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Callistemon~brachyandrus

Australian National Herbarium – Callistemon brachyandra profile page https://www.anbg.gov.au/gnp/gnp5/cal-brac.html

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 Warren and Gloria Sheather. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke