Melaleuca elliptica is a large shrub, potentially reaching 5 metres with a spread of several metres wide.
It is another species endemic to the south-west of Western Australia, growing mainly in an area bounded by Albany on the south coast, north to near Corrigin, east and north-east to Kalgoorlie and a little beyond, then south and south-east to Esperance and as far east as Nuytsland Nature Reserve.
It grows on sandy soils and granite rocks as part of heathlands and mallee-shrublands.
Melaleuca spp. can present with simple and alternate or opposite leaves. In this species, leaves are opposite and decussate (where each pair of leaves is orientated at right angles to the immediately-adjoining pairs), elliptic in shape, to 20 mm long by about 10 mm wide, grey in colour and neatly arranged.
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, up to 60 red staminate flowers are held in cylindrical spikes on short lateral branches, to about 8 cm long by 6 cm wide; each flower about 6 mm wide; produced in late spring to early summer.
The fruit is a capsule. In this species, they are to 8 mm wide.
Melaleuca elliptica has proved to be hardy and free flowering in our cold climate garden (near Armidale).
In more temperate climes than ours, sporadic flowering may occur at other times. At the height of the flowering period, blooms are profuse, conspicuous and bird-attracting.
A site in full sun is best for maximum flowering, on a soil that is reasonably well-drained. Do not plant in an overly moist site. Light, occasional pruning is appreciated to expose the flowers to better advantage.
Reported to be a very hardy plant and can also tolerate salt-spray.
The original plants were propagated from seed. Subsequent propagation is from cuttings that readily and rapidly produce roots.
This species easily regenerates after fire, producing coppicing basal and branch shoots. It will also regenerate by seed.
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.
elliptica – Latin – refers to the elliptic shape of the leaves
This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild.
Australian National Herbarium – Melaleuca elliptica profile page https://www.anbg.gov.au/gnp/gnp10/melaleuca-elliptica.html
Western Australian Herbarium (1998–). Florabase: The Western Australian Flora – Melaleuca elliptica profile page https://florabase.dbca.wa.gov.au/browse/profile/5909
Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.