Melaleuca pulchella, Claw Honey-myrtle, is a medium shrub to about 3 metres tall with a spread of up to 2 metres. The branches are pendulous and spill onto the ground. In gardens, it is usually a lot smaller.
It is another melaleuca endemic to the south-west of Western Australia, found mainly along the south coast and to about 100 km inland, from between Albany and Bremer Bay in the west, to Nuytsland Nature Reserve in the east (getting close to the South Australian border); extending as far north as Dundas Nature Reserve.
It grows on sand plains and dunes, usually in swampy ground and forms part of swampy heathlands and swamplands.
Melaleuca spp. can present with simple and alternate or opposite leaves. In this species, leaves are opposite and appear decussate (where each pair of leaves is orientated at right angles to the immediate-adjacent pairs), oval to oblong in shape, to 6 mm long by 3 mm wide and somewhat concaved, light 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, flower production is somewhat atypical in that staminate flowers are produced singularly in leaf axils or in small groups of 4, forming small heads to 20 mm across with each flower about 10 mm across; mauve/purple in colour; and with their staminal bundles curling inwards similar in appearance to a claw (hence the common name). Individual flowers are said to be the largest in the genus. Spring to early summer is the flowering period.
The fruit is a capsule, that are to 6 mm in diameter, with five distinct pointed lobes.
Melaleuca pulchella would be at home in cottage gardens, rockeries or as a foreground plant in garden beds. It has proved to be hardy and free flowering.
It is known to be cultivated and is usually a small weeping shrub in gardens.
It grows well in a sunny position on a well-drained soil and thrives in humidity up to a point. May suffer in sub-tropical and tropical areas.
Prune after flowering to create a denser bush.
Propagate from seed or cuttings.
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.
pulchella – Latin meaning “beautiful” – referring to the very attractive flowering display and likley the individual flowers.
This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild.
Western Australian Herbarium (1998–). Florabase. The Western Australian Flora: Melaleuca pulchella profile page https://florabase.dbca.wa.gov.au/browse/profile/5955
Wikipedia – Melaleuca pulchella profile page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melaleuca_pulchella
Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.