Beaufortia is a small genus of 22 species*, all of which occur naturally only in south Western Australia. The genus is closely related to the more familiar Melaleuca, both genera having stamens which are joined into clusters. The difference between the genera is in the arrangement of the anthers (the pollen bearing structures of the flowers). In Beaufortia these are attached to the stamens at their bases (basifixed) whereas in Melaleuca the anthers are attached along their sides (versatile).
Beaufortia is not common in cultivation, particularly in areas of summer humidity and rainfall. Under these conditions all species can be short lived even in well drained soils. In drier climates the plants are desirable garden subjects, the colourful bottlebrush or globular-shaped flower clusters being attractive to birds.
B.decussata is probably the hardiest member of the genus and has been grown and flowered in the Sydney area for some years. It is a species with a very erect growth habit comprising a number of tall unbranched stems giving the plant an open, lanky appearance. The combination of the rigid leaf arrangement and the tall, narrow growth habit give the plant a very distinctive appearance.
Flowers open in late summer at a time when flowering garden plants are scarce. An unusual feature is that the flower buds start to develop up to 12 months before the flowers open. This makes pruning difficult as it removes the next season’s flowers. Following flowering, seeds develop in woody capsules similar to those formed with Melaleuca species. The seeds are retained within the capsules indefinitely. The species should be grown in well drained conditions in full sun or dappled shade and it is tolerant of at least moderate frost.
Propagation is easy from both seed and cuttings. However, the seeds are difficult to remove from the capsules which, unlike most Melaleuca species, do not open of their own accord a few days after collection. One method that has been successful is to break up the capsules in an electric coffee grinder and then sow the resulting debris, which contains the seeds.
* A taxonomic revision of Beaufortia (Myrtaceae: Melaleuceae) by A. A. Burbidge; Nuytsia 27: 165-202 (2016)
Photo: Brian Walters