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Leptospermum squarrosum

Peach-blossom Teatree

Family: Myrtaceae

An erect shrub, growing to a height up to 4 metres.

It is common in the Sydney area on sandstone, occurring as far north as Gosford, Peats Ridge and Mangrove Creek, extending south through the Royal NP and onto Appin and Corrimal, then with several, somewhat-disjunct, populations: from Blaxland to Lithgow in the Blue Mountains; Robertson to Jamberoo-area; Bundanoon-area; all around Jervis Bay; and then west of Milton in Morton NP.

It is typically found in rocky sandstone and sandy vegetation such as wet-moist sclerophyll heath and shrubland.

It has thin, firm bark.

Leaves are variable but mostly broadly lanceolate to elliptic, to 15 mm long and to 5 mm wide with a sharply-pointed tip, somewhat prickly to touch.

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 solitarily, white to pink, to 30 mm wide, occurring from March to April with spot-flowering at other times.

The fruits (capsules) are to 12 mm wide and remain on the plant after seed-release.

In the garden

This is a very showy shrub in the wild, especially when pink-flowered forms are sighted. In cultivation, it has proven to be an extremely hardy shrub, tolerant of both well-drained and damp conditions in full sun. It makes an ideal hedge or windbreak and it can be fast growing. Grow in full sun to part shade on a sandy soil for best results.

Note that flowering occurs on two to three-year-old wood, so any heavy pruning will affect future flowering times. Best approach is to tip-prune to keep a desired shape.

It can usually be sourced at native-plant nurseries and is available online.

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.

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.
squarrosum – Latin referring to the tips of bracts or leaves projecting or curving outwards at about 90° from branches, at the tips. 

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/

Australian Plants Society – Sutherland Group – Plant Profile from Coastal Plants of Royal National Park CD https://sutherland.austplants.com.au/rnp/pl54.htm

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

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