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Leptospermum morrisonii

Family: Myrtaceae

A large shrub (small-tree) growing to 5 metres tall by several metres wide.

It has a natural distribution, from between Kandos and Lithgow, heading south and south-east through the central and southern tablelands and coast divisions to around Bega.

It grows in dry sclerophyll woodland and shrubland on rocky hillsides and riparian areas (rocky creeks) as well as sandy alluvium.

The bark on older stems has a corrugated appearance. The younger stems are softly-hairy with a distinct flange.

Leaves are elliptical to oblanceolate and often slightly curved, to 35 mm long to 8 mm wide and strongly aromatic, dark green to slightly bluish-green.

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 on the ends of branchlets, white or greenish-creamy-white, to 15 mm wide, occurring from late December to January. There are broad and reddish brown bracteoles at the base of the flower buds,.

The capsules are to 10 mm in diameter which vary in their woody-texture.

In the garden

This plant has made its way into cultivation with two cultivars available (see below).

It grows best in well-drained, moist soils with moderate drainage. It can be fast growing in a sunny to part shade position. It is sold commercially and can be bought online.

Prune after flowering or fruiting to provide a denser shape and to control height. Allow some room for it to spread. A good candidate for extra screening or to attract bees.

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

There is one very popular cultivar available called ‘Burgundy’ with deep-red/purple new growth. It is sold as “Burgundy Teatree”.

There is another cultivar available called ‘White Opal’.

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 now existing.

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

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.

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

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.
morrisonii – honours botanist and plant systematist David Morrison for his genetic work on this species which provided additional information that it was a new taxon. This species was first formally recognised in 1988.

It is not known to be at risk in the wild.

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

Wikipedia – Leptospermum morrisonii proifle page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leptospermum_morrisonii

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

By Jeff Howes, edited Dan Clarke