Melichrus urceolatus

Urn Heath

Family: Ericaceae

Melichrus urceolatus is a member of the Ericaceae family and is known as the Urn Heath.

This dwarf shrub reaches a maximum height of 30 centimetres with a spread of 50 centimetres. Leaves are triangular, pale green, often arched back with a sharp point and parallel veins on the lower surface (a characteristic of the Ericaceae family). Flowers are carried from March to November. They are about one centimetre long, cream, solitary and carried in the leaf axils and usually profuse. Blooms are said to be fragrant but we have not been close enough to confirm this characteristic. The fruit is globular and greenish brown.

Melichrus urceolatus is widespread and variable. It is found throughout New South Wales, except for the far west of the state, as well as Queensland and Victoria.

Aboriginal people, on the Northern Tablelands of NSW, call the species Mukram.

In the garden

So far we have not incorporated the Urn Heath in our cold climate garden but the species is common in our regenerating woodland.

Propagation

Melichrus urceolatus has one horticultural drawback. In common with other Ericaceae, it is difficult to propagate from seed or cuttings. Someone, in days gone by, must have had a propagating answer because Urn Heath was introduced into England in 1824.

Other information

The species name means jug or urn-shaped and probably refers to the shape of the flowers.

By Warren and Gloria Sheather