Melaleuca fulgens

Scarlet Honey-myrtle

Family: Myrtaceae

Melaleuca fulgens is known as the Scarlet Honey-myrtle and is an erect shrub reaching a height of three metres, with a spread to 2 metres wide.

It occurs mainly in the south-west region of Western Australia, as far east along the south coast as Cape Arid National Park-area and northwards to around Queen Victoria Spring Nature Reserve; then in a west / north-west heading band to around 100 km east of Perth (as far south as Broomehill), north-west to Geraldton and up to kalbarri National Park. There is a recorded disjunct patch in the zone where the borders of Western Australia, South Australia and Northern Territory meet; occurring here in all three states/territories over a distance of 500 km or so.

It is typically found on granite-rocky outcrops to sandy and sandstone soils – often near creeks, in heathland, shrubland and mallee-shrubland.

Melaleuca spp. can present with simple and alternate or opposite leaves. In this species, the leaves are opposite and decussate (where each pair of leaves is orientated at right angles to the pairs immediately- adjacent (although sometimes flexed over so as not obvious), narrow, linear to elliptic or ovate, up to 40 mm long, to 5 mm wide, grey-green in colour and aromatic (almost with a eucalyptus fragrance).

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 20 staminate flowers are arranged in lateral spikes up to 75 mm long by 50 mm in diameter; varying in colour from scarlet, pinkish-red, apricot or purple to even white; each flower about 3 mm wide and 20 mm long; produced mainly from winter to summer.

The fruit is a capsule, to about 8 mm long by 6 mm wide.

In the garden

Author’s notes:

A very popular plant in cultivation – mainly due to the variety of flower-colours. It is usually readily available at native and major retail nurseries.

Just note that subspecies taxa may be sold. It is M. fulgens subsp fulgens that is reported to grow best.

It is best grown in a sunny spot with very reliable drainage and some protection from winter-frost.

Melaleuca fulgens could be grown in native shrubberies where the eye-catching blooms would be a feature.

Light pruning after flowering will keep plants bushy and blooming bounteously.

Our specimens have purplish flowers. We are always on the lookout for the scarlet-flowered form. In our cold climate garden plants bloom for many months starting in mid winter.


Propagate from seed or cuttings. We always propagate from cuttings taken from our mature specimens. The progeny from these plants flower years sooner than seed-grown plants.

Other information

The species was collected by Robert Brown on the south coast of New Holland prior to 1819. Melaleuca fulgens was described and illustrated in The Botanical Cabinet, a 20 volume series describing the exotic plants cultivated in a London nursery in the early to mid 1800s. In Volume 4 (1819) M. fulgens was mistakenly described as a native of NSW and called the Splendid Melaleuca. The photo drawing accompanies the Botanical Cabinet description.

There are three subspecies currently recognised:

  • subspecies fulgens – occurring in the south-west of WA with longer stamens in the flowers and more linear-narrow leaves.
  • subspecies steedmanii – occurring near Geraldton with more ovate to obovate leaves and shorter stamens in the flowers.
  • subspecies corrugata – the taxa found in inland central Australia which is well-disjunct from the south-west of WA occurrences.

This species can regenerate well after fire, potentially through epicormic shoots and basal coppicing as well as form the seed bank.

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.

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.

fulgens – Latin meaning ‘shining’ – likely referring to the showy inflorescences.

This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild.

Australian National Herbarium – Melaleuca fulgens profile page https://www.anbg.gov.au/gnp/gnp7/melaleuca-fulgens.html

Western Australian Herbarium (1998–). Florabase: The Western Australian Flora – Melaleuca fulgens profile page https://florabase.dbca.wa.gov.au/browse/profile/5912

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.

Gardening with Angus – Melaleuca fulgens profile page https://www.gardeningwithangus.com.au/melaleuca-fulgens-scarlet-honey-myrtle/

By Warren and Gloria Sheather. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke