A shrub to 2 m high to about 1 m wide.
Calytrix tetragona is the most widespread member of the Calytrix genus and can be found in woodland and forest in eastern and southern Australia. It has a wide natural range in New South Wales, found across the entirety of the western slopes, tablelands and coastal areas, and is found in the eastern parts of the western plains (west to around Griffith). It continues into Queensland, along the coast and out to the central areas, as far north as the latitude of Rockhampton. It occurs over most of Victoria and the eastern half of Tasmania (including the islands of Bass Strait). It occurs over a large coastal part of South Australia, west to around Penong-Yalata area, and north to the Gammon Ranges National Park. It then occurs along the south and west coasts of Western Australia, west from around Cocklebiddy to the Kalgoorlie area and around to Perth.
It has a widespread habitat tolerance, from rocky platforms in heathland and shrublans above the ocean, to sandy areas on the far western plains. It can dominate the shrublayer in inland regenerating areas such as former paddocks. It can be found in dry sclerophyll woodland and shrubland.
Calytrix spp. have simple leaves which can be alternate to opposite or whorled. In this species, leaves are opposite to alternate (clustered), to 12 mm long by 1 mm wide; dull-green in colour.
Inflorescences are solitary in leaf axils, appearing in leafy clusters, 5-petaled. The most common flower colour is white and there are forms with yellow, pink and purple to red. Some of these forms can be difficult to obtain.
The fruit is a nut, surrounded by the 5 remaining sepals with awns, turning red at maturity – very distinctive – aiding identification.
This species is cultivated and often sold at local native nurseries.
Author’s note: I have been growing the pink flowering form of Calytrix tetragona for many years (see photos), in my garden in the northern Sydney suburb of Westleigh. It is a rounded shrub that grows to about 1.2 metres high with a similar spread and produces massed clusters of pink, star shaped flowers in spring. During the many times I have had my garden open under the Australian Open Garden Scheme, this is one of the native plants that visitors always stop to admire and ask “what is it”.
My plants are growing in a slightly raised bed of fine loam over a clay subsoil and receive little additional watering once established. As the pink form is reputed to grow naturally in western Victoria, it is important that the plant has excellent drainage and does not become water logged.
Calytrix tetragona is very easily grown, has a long life and is at its best in full sun or part shade. The only maintenance required is light pruning after flowering to keep it compact and prevent bare wood forming – this also helps promote better flowering next season.
When in flower, this plant is a must have for every Australian garden.
Propagate from seed or cuttings.
The genus Calytrix has about 75 species, all endemic to Australia with species found in all states.
NSW currently recognises 2 species.
This species often regenerates from seed after fire.
Calytrix – from Ancient Greek via Latin – calyx which is the collective term for the sepals and thrix (θρίξ) – meaning “hair”; referring to the hairs or awns at the end of the sepals.
tetragona – Latin meaning “four-angled” – referring to the leaves.
This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild.
NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Calytrix tetragona profile page https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Calytrix~tetragona
Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.