Callistemon linearifolius

Netted bottlebrush

Family: Myrtaceae

A tall shrub to 4 metres high by 3 metres diameter.

It grows in dry sclerophyll forest and woodlands on the NSW coast and adjacent ranges, chiefly north from Georges River, Sydney, to Nelson Bay, and occasionally further north in NSW to the Queensland border.

It is listed as being threatened with extinction in the wild in NSW.

Callistemon spp. have simple and alternate to spiral leaves. Juvenile growth is slightly hairy and purplish pink in colour. In this species, leaves are linear to linear-lanceolate, typically to 70 mm long and 7 mm wide, sometimes to 140 mm long and 12 mm wide.

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 spikes are to 10 cm long by 5 cm wide. Staminal filaments red. Can be profuse in spring to summer.

Capsules are to 6 mm diameter, arranged in the same spike-like structure along branches. Callistemon spp. have the condition where leafy growth extends beyond the flower/fruiting spike.

In the garden

Hardy and suited to most soil conditions – alluvial loams and clays. Even though it is listed as threatened with extinction, it has been cultivated in the past. It is a hady plant if it can be sourced from local nurseries.

The plant responds to annual fertilising after flowering and may be pruned severely if necessary. Many Callistemons can tolerate less than perfect drainage but usually perform best in gardens with reasonable drainage and regular availability of water.

Flowers best in full sun.

Handy hint, prune 2/3rds off spent flowers to encourage prolific growth/flowers and reduce woody stems.


Propagation is easy from seed.

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 from seed bank after fire. Most bottlebrushes can reshoot from branches/stems and basal areas of trunks after fire or pruning.

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.

linearifolius… Latin words linearis meaning “linear” and folius meaning “a leaf”, in reference to the shape of the leaves of this species.

This species is listed as being threatened with extinction and is classified as “vulnerable” at the State level.

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Callistemon linearifolius profile page

Wikipedia – Melaleuca linearifolia profile page                    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melaleuca_linearifolia

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 Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke