Callistemon comboynensis

Cliff Bottlebrush

Family: Myrtaceae

Callistemon comboynensis grows into a medium shrub reaching a height of 3 metres.

Callistemon comboynensis occurs in the north coastal ranges of New South Wales extending into Queensland and grows on cliff faces and rock crevices above 550 metres. The species name refers to the Comboyne area, west of Taree on the north coast of NSW.

Callistemon spp. have simple and alternate to spiral leaves. In this species, the leaves are narrow to broad-lanceolate, leathery with numerous oil dots, to 7 cm long and 2 cm wide. New growth is pinkish to copper-coloured.

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 flower spikes are red, to nine centimetres long and between four to eight centimetres wide. The main flowering period is in summer and autumn with sporadic flowering at other times.

Woody capsules are to 6 mm in diametre, clustered in the same spike-like arrangement along the stem. Callistemon spp. have the condition where leafy growth extends beyond the flower/fruiting spike.

In the garden

Callistemon comboynensis is a handsome bottlebrush that could be grown in an informal hedge. The species could be mixed with other bottlebrushes particularly those with different flower colours to give added interest to the garden.

Prune after flowering to maintain a dense and bushy plant.


Propagate from seed or cuttings although cuttings are preferable to maintain desired characteristics as the species may hybridise with other Callistemons in the garden. This is something to keep in mind when propagating any Callistemons if you have a number of varieties growing.

Other information

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.

comboynensis – Latin referring to the Comboyne Plateau and Ranges – located about 50 km north of Taree in NSW, where the species was first found.

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

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

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

Wikipedia – Melaleuca conboynensis profile page            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melaleuca_comboynensis

By Warren and Gloria Sheather