Callistemon pityoides

Alpine Bottlebrush

Family: Myrtaceae

A shrub to 3 metres high and 2 metres wide.

It is found at altitudes from above 2000 m down to around 900 m. It is found commonly in and around  sphagnum bogs and swamps and along watercourses in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, mainly on the coast and tablelands, often on granite or peat.

Callistemon spp. have simple and alternate to spiral leaves. In this species, the leaves are narrow and sharply pointed, to abut 3 cm in length and less than 0.3 cm wide. The under-surface usually has scattered oil glands and silky hairs. Younger leaves are entirely covered on both sides with dense silky hairs.

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 creamy-yellow flowers are produced on a dense terminal spike about 4 cm long, out of which grows a leafy shoot as flowering comes to an end.

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

In the garden

Will grow well in gardens even with less moisture than its natural habitat and is an excellent species for cultivation in cold climates.

The plant responds to annual fertilising after flowering and may be pruned severely if necessary, to encourage denser bushes with more inflorescences the following year.

Plant in full sun for best results. Tolerant of most soils. A very attractive shrub.


Propagation is easy from both seed and cuttings.

Other information

Some cultivars are available which may be marketed as “Cobberas Dwarf” or “Little Cobber”.

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.

pityoides – from Ancient Greek pitys (Πίτυς) meaning “pine” and oides, “like” or “resembling”; referring to the pine-like leaves.

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

Australian National Herbarium – Callistemon pityoides profile page      https://www.anbg.gov.au/gnp/gnp6/cal-pity.html

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

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

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