Leptospermum myrtifolium

Myrtle Teatree, Grey Teatree, Swamp Teatree

Family: Myrtaceae

A shrub to a height of 3 metres by 1-2 metres wide.

It has a distribution mainly on the tablelands of NSW, with records in the Armidale and Glen Innes areas, extending south through the central tablelands, extending to the western slopes, with most of the extent on the southern tablelands, extending into eastern Victoria towards Melbourne.

It grows in poorly-drained soils, in swampy woodland and the margins of high-altitude swamps, as well as rocky streams.

It has thin, rough bark that is shed in flaky layers on the older stems.

Leaves are broadly obovate to oblanceolate, to elliptical, to 10 mm long and to 5 mm wide, mid-green to bluey-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, flowers are produced solitarily, or sometimes in pairs, to about 10 mm diameter, white to cream in colour, occurring from Spring to Autumn.

The fruit is a capsule, to 6 mm wide, that remains on the plant until seed is released.

In the garden

This plant is commonly cultivated and there is at least one cultivar in existence (see below).

In a garden situation, they make a good shelterbelt/revegetation/hedging plant and are bird attracting and snow tolerant. They are available commercially.

Can tolerate a range of soils, provided drainage is adequate, will do well on loams and rocky areas. Plant in a sunny to part-shade position. Prune after flowering to promote flowering and a denser form.

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 a cultivar named ‘Silver Sheen’ although it may only be available overseas.

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.
myrtifolium – Latin myrti referring to the Myrtus genus and –folium – leaves – having leaves like a Myrtle.

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 myrtifolium profile page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leptospermum_myrtifolium

Plants of South Eastern NSW – Leptospermum myrtifolium profile page https://apps.lucidcentral.org/plants_se_nsw/text/entities/leptospermum_myrtifolium.htm

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

By Jeff Howes, edited Dan Clarke