Leptospermum rupicola

Family: Myrtaceae

A low-growing shrub to 1 metre tall.

It has a restricted distribution, mainly growing in the Katoomba area in the Blue Mountains of NSW, with a somewhat disjunct occurrence north at Glen Davis, and with some old records in the southern highlands (Berrima) and Kangaroo Valley.

It grows in shrubby communities and dry sclerophyll woodland on sandstone cliffs and platforms

Mature stems have thin, firm bark

Leptospermum spp. have simple and alternate leaves. In this species, leaves are narrow-ovate to lanceolate, to 20 mm long and to 4 mm wide, narrowing at the apex to form a sharp point, mid-green to dark green in colour and produced densely on the stems.

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 white, to 20 mm wide, produced solitarily, through Autumn and in Spring.

The fruit is a capsule, to 10 mm in diameter, which remains on the plant after seed are shed.

In the garden

This species is not currently known to be cultivated, likely due to its restricted habitat and the fact that it has only be formally described in the last 35 years. Hence, not much is known about its cultivation potential. It may become available for cultivation in the future.

It is found naturally on sandstone outcrops and so may need a well-draining soil to thrive.

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.


They are easy to propagate from seed or cuttings.

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. However, please note the following changes:

In 2023, the genus Leptospermum was reclassified and reduced to about 34 species, occurring in south-east Asia, New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand. Australia has at least 31 species, occurring in the eastern states. NSW currently has 31 species. Four new genera, comprising the remaining approximate 60 species, are now a part of the former Leptospermum genus, namely AggreflorumGaudiumLeptospermopsis and Apectospermum. Species that fall under these new genera are titled as such on this website with the synonymous Leptospermum name also indicated, for clarity.

The many cultivars in existence are still titled under Leptospermum.

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.

rupicola – Latin – named for its habitat which means “living near rocks”.

It is not considered to be at risk in the wild although has a restricted occurrence.

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

Wikipedia – Leptospermum rupicola profile page         https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leptospermum_rupicola

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

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

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke.