Leptospermum / - -/, is a genus of shrubs and small trees in the myrtle family Myrtaceae commonly known as tea trees, although this name is sometimes also used for some species of Melaleuca. Most species are endemic to Australia, with the greatest diversity in the south of the continent but some are native to other parts of the world, including New Zealand and Southeast Asia. Leptospermums all have five conspicuous petals and five groups of stamens which alternate with the petals. There is a single style in the centre of the flower and the fruit is a woody capsule. The first formal description of a leptospermum was published in 1776 by the German botanists Johann Reinhold Forster and his son Johann Georg Adam Forster, but an unambiguous definition of individual species in the genus was not achieved until 1979. Leptospermums grow in a wide range of habitats but are most commonly found in moist, low-nutrient soils. They have important uses in horticulture, in the production of honey and in floristry.
J.R.Forster & G.Forster
Plants in the genus Leptospermum range in size from prostrate shrubs to small trees and have fibrous, flaky or papery bark. The leaves are arranged alternately and are relatively small, rigid and often aromatic when crushed. The flowers may be solitary or in groups and have bracteoles and sepals which in most species fall off as the flower opens. There are five spreading, conspicuous petals which are white, pink or red. There are many stamens which are usually shorter than the petals and in five groups opposite the stamens, although they often appear to not be grouped. A simple style usually arises from a small depression in the ovary which has from three to five sections in most species, each section containing a few to many ovules. The fruit is a woody capsule which opens at the top to release the seeds, although in some species this does not occur until the plant, or the part of it, dies.
Taxonomy and namingEdit
The first formal description of a leptospermum was published by Johann Reinhold Forster and Johann Georg Adam Forster in their 1776 book, Characteres Generum Plantarum. In 1876, George Bentham described twenty species, but noted the difficulty of discriminating between species. ("The species are very difficult to discriminate.") Of the species he named, only ten remain as valid.
In 1979, Barbara Briggs and Laurie Johnson published a classification of the family Myrtaceae in the Journal of the Journal of the Linnean Society of New South Wales. Although there have been revisions to their groupings, their paper allowed a systematic examination of species in the genus Leptospermum. In 1989, Joy Thompson published a complete revision of the genus. In 2000, O'Brien et al. published yet another revision, using matK-based evidence to suggest that Leptospermum is polyphyletic, and should be split into persistent, Western non-persistent, and Eastern non-persistent fruiting plants, with Leptospermum spinescens as an outlier. However, neither phylogeny has been universally accepted. Current estimates recognize about ninety species of Leptospermum.
Distribution and habitatEdit
Most Leptospermum species are endemic to Australia where most are found in southern areas of the country. They are most common in moist nutrient-poor soils although they sometimes occupy other situations. Leptospermum laevigatum is usually found growing on beach sand and L. riparium growing in Tasmanian rainforest on the edges of rivers. Leptospermum amboinense extends from Queensland to Southeast Asia and three species, L. javanicum, L. parviflorum and L. recurvum are endemic to southeast Asia. L. recurvum is only found on Mount Kinabalu in Sabah. Leptospermum scoparium is one of the most widespread in the genus and occurs in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and New Zealand, where it is one of the most widespread and important native shrub species.
In Australia, Leptospermum species are sometimes used as food plants by the larvae of hepialid moths of the genus Aenetus, including A. lewinii and A. ligniveren. These burrow horizontally into the trunk then vertically down.
Use in horticultureEdit
Most Leptospermum species make desirable garden plants. The hardiest species (L. lanigerum, L. liversidgei, L. polygalifolium, L. rupestre, L. scoparium) are hardy to about −8 °C (18 °F) to −10 °C (14 °F); others are sensitive to frost. They tolerate most soils, but many supplies specify ericaceous (i.e. lime-free) compost with good drainage and full sun. Established plants are drought tolerant. They are often found as hedge plants on the west coast of the United States, and some species are popular for cultivation as bonsai. Many cultivars exist.
Use in floristryEdit
These flowers are also grown in double cultivars and are used in floral designs. However, they do not last when out of water and the single flowers do not last when wired. The 'Pacific Beauty' (Leptospermum poolgalifolium) is a useful flower to use in large church-service bowls and function arrangements, however use of Leptospermum in corporate designs is less desirable as they dry and drop when subjected to heating and air conditioning.
The nectar from the flowers is harvested by bees; this is used to make Leptospermum honey. Honey produced from Australian Leptospermum polygalifolium, also known as jelly bush or the lemon-scented tea tree, has been found to contain up to 1750 mg/kg of 'methylglyoxal' (MGO), an antibacterial compound. However, after neutralization of this compound, the honey retains bactericidal activity. Methylglyoxal thus does not appear to be the main contributor to the antimicrobial and antibacterial activities.
The following is a list of species accepted by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew as at February 2017:
- Leptospermum anfractum - Qld
- Leptospermum arachnoides - Qld NSW
- Leptospermum argenteum - NSW
- Leptospermum barneyense - Qld
- Leptospermum benwellii - NSW
- Leptospermum blakelyi - NSW
- Leptospermum brachyandrum - Qld NSW
- Leptospermum brevipes - Qld NSW Vic
- Leptospermum confertum - WA
- Leptospermum continentale - NSW Vic SA
- Leptospermum coriaceum - NSW Vic SA
- Leptospermum crassifolium - NSW
- Leptospermum deanei - NSW
- Leptospermum deuense - NSW
- Leptospermum divaricatum - NSW
- Leptospermum emarginatum - NSW Vic
- Leptospermum epacridoideum - NSW
- Leptospermum erubescens - WA
- Leptospermum exsertum - WA
- Leptospermum fastigiatum - WA SA
- Leptospermum glabrescens - East Gippsland
- Leptospermum glaucescens - Tas
- Leptospermum grandiflorum - Tas
- Leptospermum grandifolium - NSW Vic
- Leptospermum gregarium - Qld NSW
- Leptospermum incanum - WA
- Leptospermum inelegans - WA
- Leptospermum javanicum - Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines
- Leptospermum jingera - Vic
- Leptospermum juniperinum - Qld NSW
- Leptospermum laevigatum - NSW Vic SA Tas
- Leptospermum lamellatum - Qld
- Leptospermum lanigerum - Qld NSW Vic SA Tas
- Leptospermum liversidgei - Qld NSW
- Leptospermum luehmannii - Qld
- Leptospermum macgillivrayi - WA
- Leptospermum macrocarpum - NSW
- Leptospermum madidum - Qld WA NT
- Leptospermum maxwellii - WA
- Leptospermum microcarpum - Qld NSW
- Leptospermum micromyrtus - NSW Vic
- Leptospermum minutifolium - Qld NSW
- Leptospermum morrisonii - NSW
- Leptospermum multicaule - NSW Vic
- Leptospermum myrsinoides - NSW Vic SA
- Leptospermum myrtifolium - NSW Vic
- Leptospermum namadgiensis - NSW
- Leptospermum neglectum - Qld
- Leptospermum nitens - WA
- Leptospermum nitidum - Tas
- Leptospermum novae-angliae - Qld NSW
- Leptospermum obovatum - NSW Vic
- Leptospermum oligandrum - WA
- Leptospermum oreophilum - Qld
- Leptospermum pallidum - Qld
- Leptospermum parviflorum - NG Qld WA NT
- Leptospermum parvifolium - NSW
- Leptospermum petersonii - Qld NSW
- Leptospermum petraeum - NSW
- Leptospermum polyanthum - NSW
- Leptospermum polygalifolium - Qld NSW LHI
- Leptospermum purpurascens - Qld
- Leptospermum recurvum - Sabah, Sulawesi
- Leptospermum riparium - Tas
- Leptospermum roei - WA
- Leptospermum rotundifolium - NSW
- Leptospermum rupestre - Tas
- Leptospermum rupicola - NSW
- Leptospermum scoparium - Vic NSW Tas New Zealand (North + South + Chatham Is)
- Leptospermum sejunctum - NSW
- Leptospermum semibaccatum - Qld NSW
- Leptospermum sericatum - Qld
- Leptospermum sericeum - WA
- Leptospermum speciosum - Qld NSW
- Leptospermum spectabile - NSW
- Leptospermum sphaerocarpum - NSW
- Leptospermum spinescens - WA
- Leptospermum squarrosum - NSW
- Leptospermum subglabratum - NSW
- Leptospermum subtenue - WA
- Leptospermum thompsonii - NSW
- Leptospermum trinervium - Qld NSW Vic
- Leptospermum turbinatum - Vic
- Leptospermum variabile - Qld NSW
- Leptospermum venustum - Qld
- Leptospermum whitei - Qld NSW
- Leptospermum wooroonooran - Qld
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- Media related to Leptospermum at Wikimedia Commons