Prickly Tea-tree

Description

Common names

Prickly Tea-tree, Prickly Teatree.

Scientific names

Leptospermum continentale, Leptospermum juniperinum.

Family

Myrtaceae.

Genus

Leptospermum.

Name origin

Leptospermum, from Greek leptos, slender, and sperma, seed, referring to narrow seeds of some species. Continentale, refers to its mainland distribution as opposed to its close relative Manuka (L. scoparium), which only occurs in Tas and NZ.

Rainfall

500mm.

Growth rate

Moderate.

Growth height

1-2m.

Presence in Australia

Widespread east of the Olympic Highway.

This specie has been identified in the following Australian states: Qld, NSW, ACT, Vic, SA, WA.

Habitat

Forest or open sandy swampy places.

Habit

Upright rigid prickly shrub 1-2m high. Firm bark and narrow green leaves.

Site preference

Poorly-drained soil such as seepages. Tolerates frost and extended dry periods.

Characteristics

Very hardy. Moderate growth rate. Lifespan up to several decades.

Flowering

White, or rarely pink, Oct-Jan.

Seed collection

Any time. Seeds retained for many years, only shed after adversity such as injury, drought or fire. Collect capsules from older wood. Seeds highly viable, remaining so for many years in storage.

Propagation

From seed or tip cuttings. Smoke treatment further improves germination. Sow light scattering of seed and cover lightly. Germinates in 2-5 weeks. Capillary watering should benefit fine seed. Suitable for direct seeding into pots.

Regeneration

From seed, suckers and lignotubers. Regenerates quickly after soil disturbance.

Shade and shelter

Useful low-level cover in windbreaks, particularly on poorly drained sites.

Land protection

Useful in controlling erosion due to soil-binding fibrous roots, and for revegetating swampy areas.

Wildlife

Excellent habitat. Prickly foliage excellent refuge for small birds, particularly dense thickets. Flowers are a good pollen and nectar source for many native insects, including moths and butterflies.

Koori

Implements made from stems, including pegs for kangaroo skins, hunting spears and eel spears.

Ornamental

Attractive, particularly when planted to form dense thickets. Flowers prolifically. Prune from early age to encourage bushiness.

Other

Stems used for tea-tree fencing and for plant stakes. Used in colonial medicine.