Kunzea rupestris

Rocky Kunzea

Family: Myrtaceae

An erect and rigid shrub (reportedly clonal), to about 1.5 to 2 metres high, usually with less than a 1-metre spread. Plants can have a distinctive appearance with ‘gappy’ stems (as if foliage has been pruned out in some places). 

It has a very restricted geographic distribution in NSW; to the north-west of Sydney, occurring in the Maroota/South Maroota – Sackville – Glenorie area and one outlying population in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, all within the Central Coast botanical subdivision of NSW. Currently known to exist in about 20 populations, 6 of which are reserved.

It is typically found in sandstone heathland, shrubland and woodland on higher ground, typically on Hawkesbury sandstone platforms. 

It is a listed threatened species in the wild. 

Kunzea spp. have simple and alternate or opposite to clustered leaves, often aromatic. In this species, leaves unevenly clustered around the stems, oblanceolate, to 11 mm long and to 3 mm wide, with apex acute and new leaves hairy; mid to dark green in colour.

Kunzea spp. have conspicuously staminate flowers, like many of their myrtle-relatives, with 5 sepals and petals, in a range of colours, white, red, purple, pink or yellow (depending on species). Each flower has numerous stamens surrounding one carpel. Flowers are usually produced in high numbers in terminal or sub-terminal clusters or heads; rarely as solitary flowers or in clusters of 2s or 3s. In this species, the flowers are white to cream, about 10 mm across, in head-like clusters at end of branches. 

The fruit of Kunzea is a capsule. In this species, it is about 5 mm long and 2.5 mm wide, which will release many small seeds (up to 50). 

In the garden

This is a listed threatened species. As such, it may not be cultivated readily and plants are likely hard to source. No cultivation information is currently available.  

It would be an attractive shrub in a garden if plants could be sourced legally. 

Check with local native nurseries for availability. 

It grows naturally on sandstone platforms and slopes in very shallow soil. A sandy soil with very good drainage is likely needed.


Kunzea spp. can generally be propagated by seed or cuttings.

If grown from seed, flowering may take 6 years. However, cuttings taken from semi-hardwood tip cuttings, taken in late spring through to early autumn could produce flowers in one year or two at the latest. 

Other information

Kunzea is a genus of about 60 species, found in Australia and New Zealand. Australia has about 50 species – all endemic. Some species are used for essential oil. NSW currently has 15 species. The genus is diverse and is still undergoing taxonomic study due to hybrids and many subspecies. 

Kunzea spp. will generally profusely sucker from root zones after fire, as well as regenerate from seed. This species resprouts from the base after fire or mechanical damage. Seedlings have also been observed after fire

Kunzea – named after Gustav Kunze (1793-1851) – a German professor of zoology and an entomologist and botanist. Kunze was eventual Director of the Botanic Gardens of Leipzig. The genus was named after him by botanist Ludwig Reichenbach.  

rupestris – Latin meaning ‘rocks’ or ‘near rocks’ – describing the habitat of the species on Hawkesbury Sandstone. It was first collected by botanists on bare sandstone rocks near Canoelands (NW of Sydney region) in 1927. 

This species is listed as threatened with extinction at the State and Commonwealth level with the category of vulnerable at both levels. 

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

NSW Office of Environment and Heritage – Kunzea rupestris profile page https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/threatenedSpeciesApp/profile.aspx?id=10447

Australian Native Plants Society Australia – Kunzea genus article (October 2004) http://anpsa.org.au/APOL2006/aug06-s3.html

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke.