Melaleuca nesophila

Showy Honey-myrtle

Family: Myrtaceae

Melaleuca nesophila will usually develop into a tall shrub or small tree, capable of reaching 5 metres tall by 4 metres or more wide, with gray-ish papery bark.

It is endemic to Western Australia, growing in the general south-west region, very close to the coast and some offshore islands, from as far east as Cape Arid National Park, then growing commonly in an area between Esperance and Albany (Fitzgerald River National Park) and with some scattered records between Perth and Geraldton (these latter may be naturalisations). It has naturalised in other states close to the coast; mainly South Australia and Victoria.

Melaleuca spp. can present with simple and alternate or opposite leaves. In this species, they are alternate, elliptic, up to 20 mm long by about 3 mm wide, with a rounded apex and bright green.

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, flowers are held in globular, terminal heads up to 3 cm across, with up to 60 flowers per head, arranged in groups of 3; mauve-purple with yellow anthers and are both conspicuous and profuse; occurring from late spring to midsummer.

The fruit is a capsule. In this species, they are about 5 mm long and arranged in the same globular structure as the flowers.

In the garden

Author’s notes:

This species is a desired melaleuca in the garden and is very hardy. It will grow best in full sun to part-shade and it is very attarctive when flowering. It is useful for enhancing habitat values and attracting insects and birds. It grows very successfully on the east coast.

In our cold climate garden (near Armidale) plants have reached a height of three metres in more than ten years.

It can tolerate frost and dry conditions. Best grown on a well-drained soil.

Prune lightly after flowering to avoid plants becoming straggly.

Melaleuca nesophila is cultivated as a street tree. Some years ago, we came across specimens growing along the streets of Echuca, northern Victoria.

Please note: this species can naturalise outside its range, especially in beach-side environments. So plant with caution.


Propagate from seed and cuttings.

Other information

Most melaleucas can regenerate from epicormic shoots and suckering/coppicing growth after fire, as well as from 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.

nesophila – rooted in Ancient Greek, Neso (Νησώ) – an Island Goddess; Modern Greek nisi (νησί) – meaning “island” – and philos meaning “love” – referring to the island habitat where it was first discovered.

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

Australian National Botanic Gardens – Melaleuca nesophila profile page    https://www.anbg.gov.au/gnp/interns-2012/melaleuca-nesophila.html

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

Western Australian Herbarium. Florabase – the Western Australian Flora –                                        Melaleuca nesophila profile page                                    https://florabase.dpaw.wa.gov.au/browse/profile/5943

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.