Callistemon linearis

Narrow-leaf Bottlebrush

Family: Myrtaceae

A shrub growing to 3 metres high by about 2 metres wide.

It habituates dry sclerophyll forests and woodlands from central New South Wales (around Nerriga) to south-east Queensland. It grows on the coast, tablelands, western slopes and plains of NSW.

Callistemon spp. have simple and alternate to spiral leaves. In this species, leaves are linear, to 10 cm long, and to only 0.3 cm 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, mostly to 5 cm diameter. Staminal filaments c. 20–25 mm long, pale red; anthers dark.

Capsules are to 7 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

A hardy plant that can be easily grown in most cases. It is not overly fussy of soil-type.

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. Can be prone to saw-fly larvae.

Prune after flowering to encourage a denser habit and more flowers the following season. They can be pruned hard if necessary. May benefit from some additional watering in dry times. Apply a suitable fertiliser to keep them at their best.


Propagation is easy from both seed and cuttings.

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. Note that Callistemon linearis, C. pinifolius and C. rigidus are all synonyms of Melaleuca linearis.

Can regenerate from seedbank after fire. Most bottlebrushes exhibit reshooting from branches and stems as well as from basal areas of stems and trunks after fire and 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.

linearis – Latin – referring to the narrow, linear leaves of this species. Note: there is also a NSW species name C. linearifolius.

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

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

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

Australian Native Plants Society Australia – Callistemon linearis profile page https://anpsa.org.au/plant_profiles/callistemon-linearis-syn-melaleuca-linearis/


By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke