Melaleuca fulgens subsp. steedmanii is an erect shrub to 3 metres tall, spreading to about 2 metres wide.
It is another melaleuca endemic to the south-west of Western Australia. It grows in a band from as far north-west as Kalbarri and Kalbarri National Park, extending south-east through Geraldton and Mullewa, through Perinjorie, to Coorow and Buntine with some disjunct occurrences to Perth; extending east to around Karroun Hill Nature Reserve.
It grows on sandy soils, on sandstone as well as over granite, and on sandplains, froming part of heathlands, shrublands and mallee-woodlands.
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), to 40 mm long and about 5 mm wide, linear to narrow-elliptic (often widest in the middle), blue-green and crowned with a sharp 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 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 20 flowers, each about 20 mm long, are carried in lateral spikes to 60 mm long by 40 mm wide; often bright-brilliant red in colour, but sometimes purple, pink or white, mostly in September and October.
The fruit is a capsule, shaped like a compressed-urn, to about 6 mm wide.
This plant is known to be successfully cultivated in temperate areas around Australia.
Best grown in full sun on a well-draining soil. It is reported to be long-flowering. Needs protection from frost in some areas.
This plant in full flower is a memorable sight. When the flowers fade cut off each stem behind the spent blooms. This will trigger new shoots and in the following spring each new shoot will carry a flower spike.
Tall plants often become straggly. Judicious pruning will remedy this problem and keep plants bushy and blooming bounteously.
Propagate from seed or cuttings. We prefer to propagate from cuttings. They strike readily and will flower sooner than seed grown plants.
This subspecies was originally considered to be a species in its own right but after a recent study, became Melaleuca fulgens subsp. steedmanii.
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.
fulgens – Latin meaning ‘shining’ – likely referring to the showy inflorescences.
subsp. steedmanii – named after Henry Steedman (1866-1953), a Scottish-born Australian botanist, who first collected the plant in 1926. From the 1920s onwards, Steedman conducted many plant collecting expeditions to parts of Western Australia.
This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild.
Western Australian Herbarium. Florabase: The Western Australian Flora – Melaleuca fulgens subsp. steedmanii profile page https://florabase.dbca.wa.gov.au/browse/profile/15602
Wikipedia – Melaleuca fulgens subsp. steedmanii profile page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melaleuca_fulgens_subsp._steedmanii
Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.