Leptospermum spectabile

Family: Myrtaceae

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

It has a very limited distribution, found along the Colo River of NSW, mostly between Wisemans Ferry and Colo Heights, extending up the Putty Road.

It grows in dry sclerophyll woodland and forest, amongst sandstone rocks on the along the river.

It has thin, firm bark and hairy younger stems.

Leaves are narrow-elliptic, to 35 mm long by 5 mm wide, with a stiff point and a narrowing apex, 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, the flowers are produced solitarily, to 20 mm in diameter and are dark red to pink-red, occurring in October to November

The capsules are to 12 mm in diameter and remain on the plant after seed is released.

In the garden

This plant is known to be cultivated, despite its limited distribution in the wild and is available commercially. This is largely due to its very unusual but attractive dark red to pink-red flower colour.
It is proving to be a hardy shrub for moist soils in temperate climates.
It is most suited to a sunny position with free-draining soil (sandy to sandy loam). But it may tolerate other soil types. This shrub has a nice form when pruned with neatly arranged foliage. It does not get overly large. It may not flower well in subtropical to tropical climates.
There is one cultivar available which is a hybrid, for which this species is a parent (see below).

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. Plants are available commercially. Cultivars are propagated from cuttings to maintain the type-form.

Other information

There is a very attractive cultivar available called ‘Aphrodite’ with pink flowers. It is a hybrid involving this species as a parent. It is a very attractive low growing but widely spreading shrub.

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.
spectabile – Latin translating to “spectacle”, “remarkable” and “worth seeing” – referring to the unusual and showy red flowers.

It is not considered to be at risk in the wild but has a very limited distribution.

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

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

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.

Gardening with Angus – Leptospermum ‘Aphrodite’ profile page https://www.gardeningwithangus.com.au/leptospermum-aphrodite-tea-tree/

 

By Jeff Howes, edited by Dan Clarke