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Leptospermum parvifolium

Small-leaved Teatree

Family: Myrtaceae

A shrub to 2 metres tall by about 1 metre wide.

It has a wide, albeit interesting, distribution across NSW, extending north from around Nowra, extending north and north-west, out to the central western slopes (Dubbo) with a coastal distribution to about Newcastle but then heading inland, through the north-western slopes and tablelands to just over the Qld border.

It grows in dry sclerophyll forest and woodland, usually on shallow soils and rocky outcrops including sandstone.

It has thin branches with thin and rough bark which is sometimes flaky.

Leaves are comparatively small – obovate (narrow to broad) to 8 mm long and to 3 mm wide, dark to mid 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, flowers are produced singularly, to about 10 mm in diameter, white to pink, occurring in spring. The flower buds usually have reddish-brown bracts that fall off as the flowers open.

The fruit is a capsule with 5 valves, about 4 mm in diameter and hairy, persisting for a while after seed release.

In the garden

This species is known to be cultivated and is reported to be hardy. It may be hard to source locally.

It is frost tolerant and makes for a nice garden shrub. Has very small leaves and so foliage may appear sparse. However, it can flower profusely once mature and established.

Plant in a sunny to part-shade spot. It likely does better on a free draining soil (sands to sandy loams) but may tolerate heavier soils. Prune lightly to encourage a denser shape and flowering and to remove dead branchlets.

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. Seeds are available commercially as are plants.

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 now 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.
parvifolium – Latin – parvi meaning “small” and –folium – leaf, referring to the small leaves of the species.

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

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

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

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

Australian Plants Society – North Shore Group – Topic 30 – Leptospermums and Baeckeas (dated 2018) https://austplants.com.au/resources/Documents/North-Shore-Documents/October%2029%20Topic%2030%20Leptospermum%202018.pdf

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 Jeff Howes, edited Dan Clarke