14 September 2012

Leptospermum sericeum - Silver Tea Tree

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Leptospermum sericeum - Silver Tea Tree

This highly ornamental Tea Tree, also known as the Esperance Tea Tree, has silver foliage and large pink flowers to 2.5 cm (1”) diameter and is only known from granite outcrops in the Cape Le Grand National Park and some of the Recherche Archipelago offshore islands. Despite being so localised (only 25 km or 15 miles SE of Esperance), it is not rare or endangered and can be quite common on near coastal rocky outcrops, some literally within a few metres of the beach.

Leptospermum sericeum is known to grow to 3 metres (10’) in height, but in more exposed locations, rarely exceeds half this height. The unarmed pale green foliage (to 2 cm or ¾” in length) is covered in appressed soft white hairs (becoming glabrous with age), which not only produces the silver coloration, but also protects the shrub from salt-spray. The plants often grow in shallow soil over exposed granite, obviously their root-system penetrating deeply into rock fractures.

Not surprisingly, this ornamental species is grown commercially, although these days various hybrids seem to have gained more public attention, nevertheless few if any would surpass the display produced by Leptospermum sericeum, particularly with the added attraction of soft silvery foliage. Flowers are produced anytime from May to October, the exact timing depending on local rainfall.

Leptospermum is a member of the extensive Myrtaceae family.