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Melaleuca parvistaminea

Rough-barked Honey-myrtle

Family: Myrtaceae

A shrub or small tree to about 4 metres tall with fibrous rough bark.

Its natural range is south from around Taralga, Tallong and Nowra in NSW, extending through the southern tablelands and more so down the south coast to Eden than with disjunct occurrences in Victoria and South Australia.

It grows in open dry sclerophyll forest and woodland communities, usually along streams or on damp ground; often occurring in thickets, often on sandy soils and rocks outcrops.

Leaves are arranged in whorls of three, or, scattered irregularly around the stems, with raised oil glands, to 12 mm long and to 1.0 mm wide, linear to narrowly-oval with a blunt 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 and without a petiole (sessile) 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).

In this species, the flowers are arranged in a short spike or head, produced at branch terminals or leaf axils. Each spike contains up to 50 individual flowers and are about 10 mm in diameter, light cream and sometimes tinged with pink, occurring in spring.

The capsules are about 3 mm long and wide, produced in a woody spike-like cluster.

In the garden

Not commonly cultivated but there is plenty of online information about it. It likely remains a species that simply needs to be trialled more for cultivation.

Plants are very attractive when in full flower in the wild, especially when growing in copses.

It may become more common in cultivation in the future. It is often found growing on sandy to heavier soils near creeklines and so may need a similar garden situation to thrive.

Melaleucas are mostly pollinated by insects, including the introduced honey bee (Apis mellifera), flies, beetles, wasps and thrips. Birds such as lorikeets and honeyeaters, as well as, flying foxes often visit the flowers and are probably also pollinators. Hence, they are important plants to create diversity in a suburban garden.

Most species respond well to pruning. It is advised to undertake a light annual trim to promote bushy growth.

Some will withstand severe pruning as they can produce coppicing growth (epicormic shoots etc).

Melaleucas are typically healthy plants and can usually defend against pests and diseases. The most serious pest is probably webbing caterpillar. These grubs will encase themselves in a web-like structure of foliage and droppings, causing severe defoliation.

Melaleucas can be fertilised if done responsibly. The use of a slow-release fertiliser after flowering is recommended.

Propagation

Melaleucas can be propagated by either seed or cuttings. However, to maintain desirable characteristics of a particular plant, vegetative propagation (eg. cuttings) must be used. This also applies to propagation of named cultivars.

Other information

This species can be distinguished from Melaleuca ericifolia by its flaky bark, shorter but slightly wider flower spikes, and indistinct oil glands on the leaves.

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 Callistemon 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.

A link showing the differences between Melaleucas and Callistemons is here: http://anpsa.org.au/mel-cal.html

This species regenerates after fire, producing coppicing basal and branch shoots. It will also regenerate by seed.

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.
parvistaminea – is derived from the Latin words parvus meaning “little’ and stamen meaning “thread” – referring to the comparatively short stamens of the flowers when compared to other Melaleuca species.

Not known to be at risk in the wild.

Wikipedia – Melaleuca parvistaminea and Melaleuca profile pages
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melaleuca
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melaleuca_parvistaminea

Australia Native Plants Society Australia – Melaleuca page
http://anpsa.org.au/melaleuc.html

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Melaleuca parvistaminea profile page
https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Melaleuca~parvistaminea

Craven, L.A., Edwards, R.D. and Cowley, K.J. (2014). New combinations and names in Melaleuca (Myrtaceae). Taxon 63(3): 663-670.

By Jeff Howes, edited Dan Clarke