Melaleuca blaeriifolia is a spreading shrub that reaches a height of 2 metres (often smaller) with a similar spread.
It grows naturally in the south-west of Western Australia from very close to the coast between Walpole and around Boxwood Hill, north to the Stirling Range National Park and nearby Tenterden and Franklin River.
It typically grows on sandy and gravel soils, on outcrops and hillsides in dry heathland, shrubland and sclerophyll woodland.
Melaleuca spp. can present with simple and alternate or opposite leaves. In this species, the leaves are heavily clustered on the stems, whorled to spiral, small and oval to linear in shape, to less than 10 mm long and about 3 mm wide.
In Melaleuca species, flowers are usually arranged in spikes or heads. Within the head or spike, the flowers are often in groups of two or three. Flowers have five sepals (sometimes fused into a ring of tissue) and five petals which are typically small and do not persist on the flower for long.
Like many other Myrtaceae genera, the flowers are conspicuously staminate with each flower having many stamens surrounding one carpel. The stamens are typically fused into five separate bundles (staminal claws) which each bundle sitting opposite a petal (a generally useful identifying feature for the genus to distinguish it from Callistemon). Melaleuca flowers do not have pedicels (sessile).
In this species, the small flower heads are yellowish-green to green, to about 7 cm long by 3 cm wide. They may be carried on the ends of branches or on old wood. Flowering extends through spring and summer. Sporadic flowering may occur at other times.
Fruits are capsules which are 6 mm wide and long, cylindrical in shape, and carried in clusters.
This species is known to be cultivated and can be purchased from nurseries. Check for availability.
Melaleuca blaeriifolia is small enough to be accommodated in most gardens. Rockeries and native cottage gardens would be ideal situations for this interesting species.
Growth habit, foliage and flowers are all attractive features. Plants appreciate light pruning after flowering.
Plant in full sun on a well-draining soil for best results. Suitable for gardens close to the coast and frost-prone areas.
Propagate from seed or cuttings. We prefer cutting propagation because plants flower sooner than seed grown plants. Cuttings produce roots rapidly.
The genus Melelauca has been subject to recent taxonomic revision with early and recent botanists including Ferdinand von Mueller and Lyndley Craven (deceased in 2014) proposing to expand the genus to include all Callistemon spp. and others.
Craven et al. (2014) published new species combinations which included the renaming of all Callistemon species to Melaleuca, based on evolutionary relationships and DNA evidence and other features. Currently, the NSW Herbarium advises that the Callistemon genus can still be used.
A link showing the differences between Melaleucas and Callistemons is here: http://anpsa.org.au/mel-cal.html
Melaleuca is a genus of about 220 species, occurring mostly in Australia, but also Malesia and New Guinea. Australia has about 215 species with 210 reported endemic, occurring in all states. NSW currently has 30 species.
This species easily regenerates after fire, producing coppicing basal and branch shoots. It will also regenerate by seed.
Melaleuca – is derived from the Ancient Greek mélas (μέλας) meaning “dark” or “black” and leukós (λευκός) meaning “white”, apparently because one of the first specimens described had fire-blackened white bark.
blaeriifolia – The species name means having leaves similar to the Blaeria genus, which are heath-like plants from South Africa.
This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild.
Western Australian Herbarium: Florabase – The Western Australia Flora – Melaleuca blaeriifolia profile page https://florabase.dpaw.wa.gov.au/browse/profile/5878
Wikipedia – Melaleuca blaeriifolia profile page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melaleuca_blaeriifolia
Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.