Monday, 30 March 2015

Post 199 Coastal Tea Tree, Leptospermum laevigatum

The Coastal Tea-tree is an Australian native which had an original range around the south east of the country but has since been introduced successfully to a much broader span of coastal Australia and internationally. In south east Queensland for example it has been suggested that it has been introduced there during reafforestation after sand mining. 
It can grow as a shrub to small tree to around 8 metres high. It flowers from late winter through to mid spring, and flowering is often heavy with the bushes being covered in the white flowers which are attractive to insects.

 Leaves are broad, oval and blunt-tipped, to 3 cm long, stiff and flat.

There are a number of climate zones in this large area so it is a pretty adaptable plant.

Stems are fissured and the bark flakes in thin pale strips.  This picture is from California; look at that trunk.
Flowers are white and about 20 mm diameter. The flower-cup (calyx) is hairless. Fruit are non-woody and flat-topped capsules with 6-11 cells, perhaps 6 to 7mm across.
This picture shows again the nature of the trunk development in a completely natural setting. To replicate this in a mature bonsai would dramatic. The species is commonly used for bonsai. Here are some examples:

This one was at the IBC Gold Coast conference last year. It just happens to be in one of my pots which works very well I think.


This picture shows the nice tight canopy that is possible when grown as a bonsai. 

The Coastal Tea Tree will be a feature tree for demonstration at the Victorian Native Bonsai Symposium in Melbourne in April. If anyone is going bring back a bundle!

There are about 83 species of Tea-tree in Australia and 17 species in Victoria or is that Leptospermums because the name Tea-tree is also used for some Melaleucas; quite confusing.
Many grow in wet conditions but there are just as many that don't.  Many have similar and smaller leaf shape and size and similar flower so the trick is to find those species suitable to the climate zone, there will always be quite a few. The species has been widely used for hybridisation and garden use with a wide variety of foliage and flower colours and leaf shapes available in many garden centres. Finding the straight un-hybridised species, best suited to a climate zone can be challenging and laevigatum is generally available only in native plant and community nurseries.

Anyone interested in investing more time in growing Australian natives as bonsai should look closely at this one, an essential for any native collection.

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