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Leptospermum blakelyi

Family: Myrtaceae

A typically small shrub that grows to a height of 1 metre.

It has a restricted distribution, found mostly around Lithgow NSW, with some records further north in Newnes State Forest as well as south-west of Blackheath (Shipley).

It grows in heath on rocky escarpments (granite and sandstone).

The species has closely flaky bark that is shed in fibrous strips. The leaves are broadly-elliptical to obovate, to 8 mm long to 5 mm wide, with a pungent to blunt point, mid green and the margins can have a reddish hue.

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 flowers are produced solitarily or in groups of up to 4, about 7 mm in diameter, with white to pink petals, occurring November to December.

The fruit is a capsule, with 5 valves, to 3.5 mm in diameter.

In the garden

This species is not readily known in cultivation at the time of this publication. It has been studied along with other Leptospermum species for its bee attracting potential (see references). It may become more readily available into the future.

Grows naturally on granite and sandstone outcrops. May need a well-drained soil to thrive.

Most Leptospermum species make hardy garden plants.

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.

blakelyi – honours William Blakely (1875-1941) who wrote an unpublished description of this species. He was an Australian botanist and collector. From 1913 to 1940, he worked in the National Herbarium of New South Wales, working with Joseph Maiden on Eucalyptus.

Not known to be at risk in the wild, but has a limited distribution.

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

Plants of South Eastern NSW – Leptospermum blakelyi profile https://apps.lucidcentral.org/plants_se_nsw/text/entities/leptospermum_blakelyi.htm

Williams, S. (2021). A Beekeepers Guide to Australian Leptospermum trees and honey. https://www.agrifutures.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/19-039.pdf

By Jeff Howes, edited by Dan Clarke