Leptospermum arachnoides

Family: Myrtaceae

A flexible, spreading shrub that grows to 2 metres high and up to 2 metres wide.

It is typically found in moister habitats, in wet heath and sclerophyll woodland / forests, mainly on sandstone / sand and granite soils.

Its range is along the entirety of the NSW coast and tablelands subdivisions, just into the Western Slopes, extending far south almost to  Bega and north just over the Queensland border.

The leaves are linear to lanceolate or elliptical, to 20 mm long and to 3 mm wide, concave in cross-section, with a sharp point on the end (prickly).

Leptospermum typically produce solitary flowers, or in small groups of 2s and 3s or more, within the leaf axils. Flowers have 5 petals and sepals and have a symmetrical rotate shape. Stamens are produced in groups of 5 which surround 1 carpel (female part). The prominent feature in Leptospermum is the hypanthium, a cup or vase-shaped receptacle that supports the flower.

In this species, the flowers are borne singly in leaf axils and are 8 to 10 mm in diameter with the hypanthium hairy and about 2 mm long. The sepals are about 2 mm long and hairy, the petals about 4 mm long, white in colour; the stamens are about 2 mm long. Flowering occurs from November to January.

The fruit is a capsule, 5 to 8 mm in diameter with 5 valves and with a flaky surface.

In the garden

Not an overly popular species in cultivation compared to other Leptospermums. However, it can be bought and is cultivated. It is a hardy plant in a garden situation. It tolerates moderately wet conditions and is suitable for poorly drained areas with boggy sandy soil or even a heavier soil.
Reportedly frost-hardy. Makes a nice small shrub with prickly foliage that would attract bees and birds. Can flower heavily in some cases. Can be pruned to encourage a denser plant.

Leptospermum are generally susceptible to the webbing caterpillar. Usually the most effective control method for this pest is removing infestations by hand or, if necessary, you can systematically spray with a suitable pesticide. They are also prone to scale insects which is best treated by spraying white oil solution.

Propagation

They are easy to propagate from seed or cuttings.

Other information

Most Leptospermum species are endemic to Australia where most are found in southern areas of the country and many make desirable garden plants. Current estimates recognize about ninety species of Leptospermum along with many cultivars existing.

The nectar from the flowers of one species (L. scoparium) is harvested by bees, yielding honey, which is marketed as Manuka honey.

Many Leptospermum species have an ability to regenerate vegetatively after fire with suckering basal growth and branch-shoots. They will also regenerate by seed.

The general common name, Teatree, derives from the practice of early Australian settlers who soaked the leaves of several species in boiling water to make a herbal tea.

Leptospermum – derived from the Greek words leptos meaning ‘fine’ or ‘slender’ and sperma which means ‘seed’ referring to the thin brown seeds of the genus.

arachnoides – Latin, assumably referring to the former genus Arachne or the arachnid class Arachnida – basically meaning ‘resembling a spider’, referring to the overall appearance of the foliage.

Not considered at risk in the wild.

Australian National Botanic Gardens – Leptospermum profile page https://www.anbg.gov.au/leptospermum/

Wikipedia – Leptospermum arachnoides profile page

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leptospermum_arachnoides

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

By Jeff Howes, edited by Dan Clarke