Melaleuca radula

Graceful Honey-myrtle

Family: Myrtaceae

Melaleuca radula is an open shrub that will reach a height of 2.5 metres, spreading to about 2.5 metres and often multi-stemmed.

It is another melaleuca endemic to Western Australia, growing in a continuous distribution from as far north-west as around Kalbarri and Kalbarri National Park, extending south and south-east to Perth, and further south-east to near Katanning, and then as far east as Lake Cowan and Lake Ballard-area.

It grows on granite rocky outcrops as well as along watercourses, forming part of heathlands and shrublands as well as mallee-woodlands.

Melaleuca spp. can present with simple and alternate or opposite leaves. In this species, leaves are opposite and decussate (where each pair of leaves is orientated at right angles to the immediate-adjacent pairs), narrow-elliptical and aromatic with raised oil dots, to 45 mm long by 2 mm wide, concaved in cross-section; deep 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, flowers are arranged in short spikes, to 40 mm long by 30 mm wide, with each flower about 13 mm wide and with many stamens giving a nice fluffy appearance; pink, mauve, purple or sometimes white; appearing in spring and are carried for many months.

The fruit is a capsule, rounded, to 6 mm in diameter, in clusters along the stems.

In the garden

The Graceful Honey-myrtle prefers a sunny, well-drained situation.

It is known to be cultivated somewhat and reportedly does well in temperate areas of Australia.

Prune after flowering to keep the plants bushy and blooming bounteously. Unpruned plants can look sprase and unattractive. The deep-coloured forms (purple) are very attractive.


Propagate from seed or cuttings. We prefer to propagate melaleucas from cuttings as they flower sooner than seed-grown plants.

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.

radula – Latin meaning “scraper” – and the name of the raspy tongue-like structure used by molluscs when feeding – referring to the rough surface of the leaves due to the raised oil glands.

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

Western Australian Herbarium. Florabase: The Western Australian Flora: Melaleuca radula profile page https://florabase.dbca.wa.gov.au/browse/profile/5958

Wikipedia – Melaleuca radula profile page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melaleuca_radula

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