Melaleuca huegelii

Chenille Honey-myrtle

Family: Myrtaceae

Melaleuca huegelii is known as the Chenille Honey-myrtle and is a large shrub that can reach a height of 5 metres, with a spread to several metres across.

It is another endemic species to south-west Western Australia, occurring usually close to the west coast, as far south as Augusta, northwards in disjunct patches, through Geraldton and as far north as Dirk Hartog Island.

It typically grows on coastal cliffs on sandtsone and limestone as well as coastal sand dunes in heathland and shrublands.

Melaleuca spp. can present with simple and alternate or opposite leaves. In this species, leaves are tightly clustered along the stems, alternate and imbricate (overlapping), to 10 mm long and 2.5 mm wide, ovate to triangular, mid to dark green in colour, tapering to a fine point.

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 200 staminate flowers are produced in long spikes, up to 100 mm long by about 30 mm wide, white to cream, sometimes tinged with pink in colour; each flower to about 5 mm wide; produced mainly between August and January.

The fruit is a capsule. In this species, they are about 3 mm in diameter, clustered along the stems.

In the garden

Author’s notes:

A plant that is known to be cultivated and is reliable on the east coast in wetter environments compared to where it is found naturally.

It is best planted on a well-drained sandy soil but can also tolerate heavier soils, in full sun. It is resistant to salt-spray.

Blooms are a magnet to many native insects including Blue Flower Wasps and various colourful Chafer Beetles. New growth grows out of the ends of flower spikes.

Both foliage and flowers are attractive features. It can be very attractive in full flower once plants are a few years old.

We have found that this species is free flowering as well as drought and frost tolerant.

Plants respond well to the occasional light prune.


Propagate from seed and cuttings.

Other information

This species can regenerate well after fire 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.

huegelii – named after Charles von Hügel (1795-1870), an Austrian Explorer and Diplomat who had a significant role in introducing Australian plants to Europe.

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

Western Australian Herbarium (1998–). Florabase: The Western Australian Flora – Melaleuca huegelii profile page https://florabase.dbca.wa.gov.au/browse/profile/5920

Australian Native Plants Society Australia (ANPSA) – Melaleuca huegelii profile page https://anpsa.org.au/plant_profiles/melaleuca-huegelii/

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. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke