Leptospermum laevigatum

Distribution Map
Family: Myrtaceae
Distribution: Coastal areas from south-east Queensland through to the south-east of South Australia and northern Tasmania. Naturalised and an environmental weed in the south of Western Australia.
Common Name: Coastal tea tree
Derivation of Name: Leptospermum...from Greek leptos, thin and sperma, a seed, a reference to the small seeds.
laevigatum...from Latin laevigatus, smooth, probably a reference to the appearance of the plant.
Conservation Status: Not considered to be at risk in the wild.

General Description:

Leptospermum is a genus of about 83 species, all but three occurring in Australia. They are commonly known as 'tea trees' due to the practice of early European settlers of using the leaves of some species as a tea substitute.

Leptospermum laevigatum
Leptospermum laevigatum
Photo: Brian Walters

Leptospermum laevigatum is usually a large, bushy shrub that can reach 5 metres in height by a similar spread. Leaves are grey-green and are generally oval-shaped 15-30 mm long by 5-8 mmm wide.

Leptospermum laevigatum 'Flamingo'   
Foliage of Leptospermum laevigatum

Photo: Brian Walters

The white, 5-petalled flowers are fairly typical of the genus being circular (up to 20 mm diameter) with numerous small stamens surrounding the central stigma. Flowers are followed by small, woody fruits containing many seeds; the fruits remain unopened until they are removed from the plant or the plant dies.

L.laevigatum is reasonably common in cultivation where the greyish foliage is an attractive feature. It is a hardy shrub for moist soils in a range of climates and is particularly useful in coastal areas as it is tolerant of salt spray. Plants prefer full sun or partial shade and may be pruned severely if necessary.

Note: this species is a serious environmental weed in southern Western Australia and in South Africa and it would probably be best to not plant it outside of its natural range.

At least one form with variegated foliage is in cultivation. It is known as 'Flamingo' or the 'Cranbourne Form' and is a shrub 1-5 to 2 metres high by 1.5 metres wide. Another variegated form is known as 'Raelene' - this may be the same plant as 'Flamingo' under a different name.

Propagation is easy from both seed and cuttings. However, the variegated form(s) can only be propagated from cuttings as it will not come true from seed.

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