Leptospermum petersonii is a tree to about 5 metres tall and to 4 metres wide with flaky bark and soft light green foliage.
It grows naturally in northern NSW and Queensland (north of Port Macquarie), but is naturalised in the Sydney region (from extensive planting). It grows near wet sclerophyll forest or rainforest on rocky escarpments.
The narrow leaves are lemon-scented and grow to 6 cm long and 0.5 cm wide. New leaf growth can have a light reddish tinge.
It has small white five-petalled flowers, about 1.5 cm across, in spring and summer, but this species is grown more for the foliage and habit, rather than the flowers.
Like most Leptospermum species, it is tough and hardy, and suitable for a wide range of positions. Insects appear to be the main pollinators for Leptospermum.
It is fast growing and is an ideal filler tree or tall shrub in a mixed planting. It is also a suitable small street tree. It doesn’t take up too much space, allows light through, is easily pruned if needed, and is neutral enough in flower and foliage colour to work well with many other plants. It copes well with dry conditions and needs little care.
A popular shorter form of Leptospermum petersonii is Leptospermum ‘Lemon Hedges’ to 3 metres.
Leptospermum can be affected by webbing caterpillars, so keep a close eye on plants and remove any affected foliage before an infestation gets too bad.
It is lovely planted where sun can shine through the leaves, and wind can gently move the soft foliage.
Grow by cutting or seed. It seeds prolifically from its woody capsules, so dig up and pot on any seedlings that come up around the plant. Due to its prolific seeding, it can become a weed in some areas.
The lemon-scented leaves can be used for teas, leading to the common name of tea tree, and the oils from the leaves are used for essential oils and scents.
It may not burn very often in its natural habitat but can likely regenerate from seed and epicormic shoots and basal suckering.
Leptospermum – Lepto – Gk. for ‘thin’ and – spermum – ‘seed’, referring to the fine and thin seeds of the genus.
petersonii – refers to W.J. Peterson who collected a specimen on Wilsons Peak on the border of NSW and Queensland in January 1905.
Not known to be at risk in the wild.