Leptospermum brevipes

Slender tea-tree

Family: Myrtaceae

A shrub (small tree) growing to 4 metres high and to 3 metres across.

It has a wide distribution in NSW, although with disjunct occurrences, with records in the North Coast, Northern Tablelands and Western Slopes subdivisions, then with plants found on the Central Tablelands along with the South Coast, Southern Tablelands and South-Western Slopes. It extends through eastern Victoria towards Melbourne, and north into Queensland (west of the Gold Coast).

It is found in dry sclerophyll woodland and shrubland, typically on rock granite outcrops, often close to streams.

The bark on the larger stems is rough, but young stems have smooth bark that is shed in stringy strips.

The leaves are narrow-elliptic / oblanceolate to obovate, to 25 mm long, and to 5 mm wide, hairy when young but becoming glabrous, mid-green in colour.

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 or in pairs, in leaf axils, 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 and can be profuse. The flower buds also have an attractive pink tinge.

The fruit is a capsule, to 4 mm in diameter, with the sepals attached. The capsule is dropped when mature.

In the garden

This species is known to be propagated and has been grown successfully by APS members. It is reported to be bird-attracting and also regenerates easily on farmland (where plants occur naturally), when stock are removed.

It is a hardy and fast-growing shrub, adaptable to most soils and works well for screening and hedging. It tolerates frost, and will take to rocky areas.

Grow in an open sunny to semi-shaded position. May benefit from additional water in dry times. Prune after flowering to control shape and provide density. It is reported to be fast growing.

Most Leptospermum species make good 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 recognise 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.

brevipes – Latin meaning ‘short-feet’ referring to the short flower stalks (pedicels) of some plants found in the wild (although some populations display longer pedicels).

Not known to be at risk in the wild.

 

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

Wikipedia – Leptospermum brevipes profile page    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leptospermum_brevipes

Plants of South Eastern New South Wales – Leptospermum brevipes profile page https://apps.lucidcentral.org/plants_se_nsw/text/entities/leptospermum_brevipes.htm

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

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 Warren and Gloria Sheather; additions - Jeff Howes, edited by Dan Clarke