Melaleuca macronychia

Family: Myrtaceae

Melaleuca macronychia is a medium-sized multi-branched shrub that will reach a height of 5 metres, spreading to about 3 metres wide.

It is another melaleuca endemic to the south-west of Western Australia, growing in an area roughly bounded by Kagoorlie (north-eastern extent), south-east to around Norseman, west to Lake Grace (south-western extent) and north-west to around Kalannie.

It grows on sandy soils and granite outcrops as part of heathlands and sclerophyll shrublands.

Melaleuca spp. can present with simple and alternate or opposite leaves. In this species, leaves are alternate, oval to elliptic in shape, up to 30 mm long by 15 mm wide, tapering to an apical point and blue-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 pedicels (sessile).

In this species, up to 80 staminate flowers are arranged in flower spikes up to 60 mm long and wide, red in colour; each flower about 5 mm wide and 30 mm long, produced in February to April as well as June to August and October to December; on lateral branches.

The fruit is a capsule. In this species, they are to 6 mm in diameter, clustered along branches.

In the garden

Melaleuca macronychia is an eye-catching plant with its red bottlebrush-like spikes and would enhance a native garden bed. It is known to be cultivated and does well in a warm sunny position with well-draining soil. It may not cope with heavy frost.

The flowers are very attractive and can be quite spectacular. It is one of a number of Western Australia species with great horticultural potential.

Provides habitat for birds in the garden. A useful gap-filling plant.


Propagate from seed and cuttings.

Other information

Two subspecies are currently recognised – both of which are cultivated:

  • subsp. macronychia – occurring over most of the geographic range with longer and narrower leaves;
  • subsp. trygonoides – occurring over the eastern parts of the geographic range with much shorter and broader leaves.

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.

macronychia – Greek macros (μακρός) meaning “large” and –nychia (νύχια) meaning “claws” – referring to the large staminal-claws of the flowers.

This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild. The taxon subsp. trygonoides is considered to be “poorly known” in WA with a conservation code of “Priority Three”.

Western Australian Herbarium (1998–). Florabase: The Western Australian Flora – Melaleuca macronychia profile page https://florabase.dbca.wa.gov.au/browse/profile/5935

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

Wikipedia – Melaleuca macronychia profile page       https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melaleuca_macronychia

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