Tea Trees – More than antiseptic

When we think of Tea Trees, most of us think about good old tea tree oil. The home remedy that fixes almost anything. The popularity of this one type of tea tree, (called Melaleuca alternifolia) is amazing, but unfortunately it’s so famous it overshadows its lesser known cousins; Tea Trees who just haven’t made it to the big time yet.

Like the Black Tea Tree, (Melaleuca bracteata) which can be grown to form a screen so dense, that even with a run-up you won’t make it through. And then there are all the beautiful cultivars which have been selected for the masses of white flowers they produce. With names like Snow Fire and Snowstorm you can get some idea as to how prolifically they flower. There are also small cultivars which will easily fit into any garden, and these have fascinating names such as Cotton Candy, Little Beauty, Pink Lace and White Lace.

There is another closely related genus of Tea Trees, called the Leptospermums. And in my opinion it’s this group that contains some of the most interesting Tea Trees. Plants like the Lemon Scented Tea Tree (Leptospermum pertersonii) whose crushed foliage smells like lemon. Speaking of smells, the Olive Tea Tree (Leptospermum liversidgei) is claimed to repel mosquitoes with its citronella scent. A commonly seen tree in Mareeba gardens is the Weeping Tea Tree (Leptospermum madidum) whose elegant weeping branches and smooth white bark has made it a favourite with many gardeners. In the past Yuruga has sold out of the Weeping Tea Tree, however now there are even two different forms available to choose from just to make sure no one misses out.

Naturally, just it has been done with the Melaleucas, outstanding cultivars of Leptospermums have also been selected and marketed. These include Copper Glow, Pacific Beauty and Lemon Frost just to name a few. And there are some less common species such as the Wooroonooran Tea Tree (Leptospermum wooroonooran) which is only found in a few locations here in Far North Queensland. If you’re looking for something a little different or maybe I should say, something a little different-looking I would recommend the Purple Stemmed Turkey Bush (Leptospermum purpurascens). It’s stem really is purple and smooth and that makes it quite an eye-catching oddity in the garden.

If you’re still not sold on Tea Trees I should mention that most are as tough as old boots and once established will withstand floods and droughts. Heck, some will even bounce back after a fire. Now that’s a very Australian plant.

See you at Yuruga.
Marcus.