Melaleuca wilsonii, Wilson’s Honey-myrtle, is a dense shrub that reaches a height of two metres, spreading to about 4 metres.
It is native to Victoria and South Australia; growing in Victoria from as far east and north of Bendigo-region, spreading west along a very simlar latitude, through Horsham (and a bit further south), and further west into South Australia – where it grows mainly between Mt Gambier and arround Coonalpyn (towards Adelaide).
It is found in dry sclerophyll woodland and mallee-shrubland, usually on poorly-drained soils in sandy and clay soils.
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 adjacent pairs), linear- lanceolate, to 15 mm long and 2 mm wide, distinctly pointed, with oil glands and three faint veins; mid 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 spikes are deep-pink to mauve-purple, made up of 2 to 5 flowers, carried on old wood with clusters arranged along branches, sometimes exceeding 10 cm in length; each flower about 10 mm long. Blooms are both prominent and prolific, mostly in spring.
The fruit is a capsule. In this species, it is to 5 mm wide and long.
This is another melaleuca that is known to be cultivated commonly.
It does best in a moist but well-drained soil in full sun. It can reportedly tolerate dry conditions.
Melaleuca wilsonii will grow in moderately saline areas and will cope with inundation for lengthy periods.
Many years ago, we were travelling in western Victoria and came across a large population of Melaleuca wilsonii, growing in a swampy area and in full flower. We were so taken by this floral extravaganza that we nearly drove off the road.
Our garden is perched on a well-drained 900 metre high hill (near Armidale NSW) and our specimens survive, thrive and bloom bounteously.
This species may be propagated from seed or cuttings. We find that cuttings propagate readily and rapidly.
This species easily regenerates after fire, producing coppicing basal and branch shoots. It will also regenerate by seed.
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 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.
wilsonii – named after Charles Wilson – a friend of Ferdinand von Mueller (who named the species) and whose assistance led to its discovery.
This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild.
VICFlora – The Flora of Victoria Online – Melaleuca wilsonii profile page https://vicflora.rbg.vic.gov.au/flora/taxon/38417086-336a-40d5-9af7-5d026922fc29
Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.
Australian Native Plants Society Australia – Melaleuca wilsonii https://anpsa.org.au/plant_profiles/melaleuca-wilsonii/