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.orbifolia is an erect or spreading shrub from 1.5 to 3 metres high with concave, rounded foliage about 5 mm in diameter. The red and green, bottlebrush-shaped flowers appear in late winter and spring.
This species is a very attractive garden plant for climates with low summer humidity. It has been cultivated in humid, east-coastal areas but cannot be regarded as reliable there. It requires 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. Grafting onto reliable Melaleuca rootstocks may offer a solution to more widespread cultivation of this and other beaufortias but it is unknown if any experiments have been attempted.
* A taxonomic revision of Beaufortia (Myrtaceae: Melaleuceae) by A. A. Burbidge; Nuytsia 27: 165-202 (2016)
Photo: Brian Walters