Leptospermum trinervium

Flaky-barked Teatree

Family: Myrtaceae

A large shrub or small tree, growing to a height of 6 metres, usually with a narrower spread, to 2 metres or more.

It is a very common shrub in sandstone environs, and has a large distribution, growing from the south-east region of Victoria (between Mallacoota and Orbost), north along the coast and tablelands subdivisions of NSW (extending just into the western slopes), up as far as Rockhampton in Qld.

It is found in dry sclerophyll woodland and forest, from ridges down to gully creeklines, as well as heath and scrub, especially among sandstone rocks.

It has prominent flaky-papery bark that is shed in thin, flaking strips – a useful identification feature.

Leaves are variable in terms of their width: narrow-elliptic to broadly-obovate to falcate, to 22 mm long and to 6 mm wide, with the tip usually blunt; somewhat aromatic, mid-green to light-green in colour. Some populations exhibit very narrow-leaved forms.

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 or in pairs, white in colour to 15 mm wide, occurring mostly from September to October or later if plants are inland.

The fruits (capsules) are to 6 mm wide and fall off the plant when seeds are ready to be released.

In the garden

This species is known to be cultivated and can usually be sourced commercially (as plants and as seed).
In a garden situation it is hardy, but not overly showy. Tolerant of a wide range of soils. Frost and drought tolerant. The interesting flaky bark is its main feature along with an ability to be a dense bush.
Birds can use it for nest building. Best grown in an open sunny position on a sandy to loam soil. It can be pruned into a dense bush. It may not flower very heavily in some cases.

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. 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. This species regenerates readily from basal and stem shoots.

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.

Leptospermumderived from the Greek words leptos meaning “fine” or “slender” and sperma which means “seed” referring to the thin brown seeds of the genus.

trinervium Latin meaning “three nerves”, referring to the obvious three nerves in the leaves.  

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/

Wikipedia – Leptospermum trinervium profile page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leptospermum_trinervium

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

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