Leptospermum scoparium

Manuka

Family: Myrtaceae

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

It is found on the south coast of NSW, south from Mt Imlay in the Burrawangs, east of Boydtown, extending south through Victoria and Tasmania. It also occurs in New Zealand extensively.

In NSW, it grows in heath on sandstone and sandy soil, and often along creeklines.

The bark is firm and often light-brown.

The leaves are broad-lanceolate to elliptic, to 15 mm wide by 6 mm wide, with a sharp point.

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 produced solitarily, to 12 mm in diameter, white, or rarely pink or red, occurring in spring.

The fruit (capsules) are to 10 mm in diameter and woody.

In the garden

This species is known to be cultivated commonly and is a favourite of beekeepers in order to produce Manuka Honey, a marketed health product and delicacy, reported to have many health benefits.

It is a hardy shrub and several cultivars are available (see below). This species is also the source of several cultivated hybrids. It grows readily in a sandy, free-draining soil and will benefit from some enrichment, in full sun to part shade. It does not get overly large, and so lends to small gardens. It may tolerate heavier soils.

It can flower profusely creating a very attractive show. Great for attracting 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. This species is reported to be one of the more susceptible.

 

Propagation

They are easy to propagate from seed or cuttings.

Other information

Many cultivars are available as well as hybrids. More cultivars have been made from New Zealand forms which are generally more attractive.

It can be (and has been historically) confused with L. continentale

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.

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.
scoparium – Latin – referring to “broom-like” or “sweep-out”, referring to the broom-like arrangement of foliage and branches.

This species 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 scoparium profile page:
https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Leptospermum~scoparium
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 Dan Clarke