Gaudium laevigatum is known as the Coast Tea Tree and is a medium to tall shrub or small tree reaching a height of 8 metres, often with a narrow spread to about 2 metres.
It is confined to coastal environments – right next to beaches, growing on sand dunes, forming part of coastal shrublands, heathlands and dry sclerophyll woodlands. Its natural distribution is south of Nambucca Heads in NSW, extending down the coast into Victoria, to the west side of Port Phillip Bay, extending to Tasmania and its islands. It has become a weed in South Australia, Western Australia, South Africa and the Unites States – in coastal areas. It is one of the more easily recogniseable species due to habitat and appearance.
The trunk is often gnarled, the bark flaky and shed in strips.
Gaudium spp. have simple and alternate leaves. In this species, leaves are greyish green, narrow obovate to 30 mm long and to 10 mm wide, with a rounded apex.
Gaudium spp. 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 Gaudium/Leptospermum is the hypanthium, a cup or vase-shaped receptacle that supports the flower.
In this species, the flowers are produced in pairs, on short side shoots, to 20 mm wide, white in colour, occurring from August to October. The flower buds also have many reddish-brown bracts.
The capsule is to 8 mm diameter and mostly fall from the plant shortly after reaching maturity.
In areas where there is no potential for bushland invasion Leptospermum laevigatum could be cultivated in hedges.
This plant is cultivated commonly and has been planted for over 100 years. It is useful for beachside gardens and sandy coastal suburbs, especially for creating screens and structure.
Grow in full sun to part-shade. Prune lightly to moderately to shape after flowering or fruiting. Does best on a free-draining sandy soil. Very hardy and can tolerate salt spray.
It has become a weed outside of its natural range so plant with caution.
Gaudium (formerly 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.
Propagate from seed and cuttings.
Gaudium laevigatum has been planted along the Central Coast of California to stabilise sand where it is known as the Australian Tea Tree, but has now become a weed.
The species was recorded as growing in Melbourne Botanic Gardens in 1858.
At least one form with variegated foliage is in cultivation. It is known as ‘Flamingo’ or the ‘Cranbourne Form’ and is a shrub 1-5 to 2 metres high by 1.5 metres wide. Another variegated form is known as ‘Raelene’ – this may be the same plant as ‘Flamingo’ under a different name.
Please note the following changes:
In 2023, the genus Leptospermum of about 90-100 species, was reclassified and reduced to about 34 species, occurring in south-east Asia, New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand. Australia now has at least 31 species, occurring mostly in the eastern states. NSW currently has 31 species. The remaining approximately 60 species, that were previously Leptospermum, are now classified in four new genera: Aggreflorum, Gaudium, Leptospermopsis and Apectospermum. Species in these new genera are titled as such on this website with the synonymous Leptospermum name also indicated, for clarity.
Gaudium is a genus of 22 species, endemic to Australia, occurring mainly in eastern Australia, with one species occurring in Western Australia. NSW currently has 15 species. Gaudium differs from Leptospermum by having fruiting-capsules usually deciduous and either non-woody, or with non-woody valves. In addition, the seeds of Gaudium are ovoid to cuneiform and with a reticulate (net-like) surface, whereas they are linear with longitudinal striations in Leptospermum.
Many Gaudium 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.
Gaudium – Latin for ‘joy’ – in tribute to NSW Herbarium Botanist Joy Thompson (1923-2018) who published an extensive study on Leptospermum in 1989 (which recognised several new species), and was considered the primary expert on the genus.
laevigatum – from Latin laevigatus, meaning “made smooth” or “shiny” or “having a polished surface” – probably a reference to the texture of the leaves.
This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild.
NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Gaudium profile page https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=gn&name=Gaudium
NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Gaudium laevigatum profile page https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Gaudium~laevigatum
Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia (as Leptospermum laevigatum)