Melaleuca gibbosa

Slender Honey-myrtle

Family: Myrtaceae

A medium-sized shrub reaching a height of 2 metres.

It occurs naturally generally from western Victoria (south of Horsham); however, with a very-disjunct occurrence in the eastern parts, close to the coast between Seaspray and Dutson; extending west into South Australia, through Mt Gambier, Adelaide and Kangaroo Island as well as the Yorke Peninsula, Port Lincoln and northwards to Wudinna-Kimba-region.

It is found in swampy areas in heath and open forest, often on limestone soils.

Melaleuca spp. can present with simple and alternate or opposite leaves. In this species, leaves are opposite and decusstae, stalkless (sessile) and tightly clustered around the stems, obovate to ovate, to 6 mm long and 4 mm wide; with tips of the leaves curve inward; mid to dark green in colour.

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 a petiole (sessile).

In this species, flowers are carried in up to 10 pairs per spike, mauve to pink and fade to white. Profuse blooms are carried in spring and summer.

The capsule is woody, flask-shaped to spherical, to 4 mm wide and eventually becomes submerged in the leafy stem.

In the garden

Author’s notes – Warren Sheather: It is equally at home in both well drained and moist situations. In our cold climate garden (near Armidale), plants rarely exceed one and a half metres in height. Birds and insects are attracted to the flowers.

Hugh Stacy: Melaleuca gibbosa is a hardy plant, commonly cultivated interstate. It grows well in most soils and aspects.

Light pruning will prevent plants from becoming straggly.

Plant in full sun to light shade for best results.


Propagate from seed and cuttings. We prefer cutting propagation as they produce roots rapidly and these plants flower much sooner than seed grown plants.

Other information

The type specimen was collected in 1806 by Labillardière in Tasmania (Van Diemen’s Land as it was then) during a French scientific expedition to Australia.

This species likely regenerates from seed after fire as well as from reshooting stems.

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.

gibbosa – Latin – meaning “humped” or “hunched” – referrring to the swollen swellings on the stems when the fruits are absorbed.

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

VicFlora – Flora of Victoria Online – Melaleuca gibbosa profile page https://vicflora.rbg.vic.gov.au/flora/taxon/ceae151d-f86c-402c-9459-0d8a24ddfbed

Australian National Herbarium – Melaleuca gibbosa profile page    https://www.anbg.gov.au/gnp/interns-2010/melaleuca-gibbosa.html

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 Warren and Gloria Sheather. Additional text by Hugh Stacy. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke