A shrub to 3 metres high (sometimes larger) by up to 2 metres wide, with hard and rough bark (not paperbark despite the common names).
It occurs in Sydney and further west and north, south to around Wagga Wagga, west to a line going through Griffith, through Orange and Dubbo and west of; continuing north to the west of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.
It grows in open woodland and forest and in areas subject to flooding, usually on alluvial gravel and heavier soils. It can form dense thickets when regenerating.
Melaleuca spp. can present with simple and alternate or opposite leaves. In this species, leaves are alternate, to 15 mm long and 1 mm wide, almost circular (terete) in cross-section and ending with a point, aromatic when crushed.
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 and without pedicels (sessile) 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).
In this species, flowers are pinkish-purple to deep mauve, fading to white, and are arranged on a spike up to 40 mm long and 20 mm diameter, usually at the end of branches, with growth continuing from this point after flowering.
Each spike contains up to 50 separate flowers.
Flowering mainly occurs from November to December but also through to May
The capsules are cylindrical, 4 mm diam, arranged on the fruiting spike with persistent sepals.
This is a hardy species which can be grown in a wide range of climates from subtropical to cool temperate. It is frost tolerant. It is considered one of the most attractive melaleucas to grow. Likes some supplementary watering but only in dry times. Will tolerate temporary drainage.
Can be pruned into a dense shrub and very useful for covering fences and other structures. Tip pruning is advised very early on. The flowers attract a variety of insects such as native bees, wasps and beetles.
Melaleucas are mostly pollinated by insects, including the introduced honey bee (Apis mellifera), flies, beetles, wasps and thrips. Birds such as lorikeets and honeyeaters, as well as, flying foxes often visit the flowers and are probably also pollinators. Hence, they are important plants to create diversity in a suburban garden.
Most species respond well to pruning. It is advised to undertake a light annual trim to promote bushy growth. Some will withstand severe pruning as they can produce coppicing growth (epicormic shoots etc).
Melaleucas are typically healthy plants and can usually defend against pests and diseases. The most serious pest is probably webbing caterpillar. These grubs will encase themselves in a web-like structure of foliage and droppings, causing severe defoliation.
Melaleucas can be fertilised if done responsibly. The use of a slow-release fertiliser after flowering is recommended.
Melaleucas can be propagated by either seed or cuttings. However, to maintain desirable characteristics of a particular plant, vegetative propagation (eg. cuttings) must be used. This also applies to propagation of named cultivars.
This species easily regenerates after fire, producing coppicing basal and branch shoots. It will also regenerate by seed.
This species was previously known as Melaleuca erubescens.
Note: There is a species from Western Australia called M. diosmifolia which is a totally different species.
The genus Melaleuca 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.
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.
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.
diosmatifolia – Latin – with foliage like the genus Diosma. It has been argued that this species name is erroneous and is simply a wrongful variation of M. diosmifolia, which is a Western Australian species.
(More about this matter can be read here: https://www.asbs.org.au/newsletter/pdf/87-jun-051.pdf)
This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild.
NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Melaleuca diosmatifolia profile page
Wikipedia – Melaleuca diosmatifolia and Melaleuca profile page
Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.
Craven, L.A., Edwards, R.D. and Cowley, K.J. (2014). New combinations and names in Melaleuca (Myrtaceae). Taxon 63(3): 663-670.