Coast Tea Tree
Coast Tea Tree is a member of the genus Leptospermum which has 79 species occurring from South-east Asia through Australia, New Guinea and New Zealand; 77 of these occur in Australia, and 75 of these are endemic (i.e. they are only found here). Tea-trees vary from small to large shrubs and occasionally small trees, and occur widely across Australia. Leptospermum belongs in the myrtle family, the Myrtaceae, which includes many of our recognisable species such as eucalypts (Eucalyptus), bottlebrushes and paperbarks (Melaleuca), and Lily-pilies (Syzygium and Acmena) .
In NSW, Coast Tea Tree occurs naturally along the coast in scrub growing on and behind beach dunes, on headlands and also in coastal heath and scrub on sand (such as Sydney’s threatened Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub community). It is found naturally from Victoria through to the north coast of NSW as far as the Nambucca area, but is naturalised further north as a result of planting for dune stabilisation. In fact, so widely has it been utilised for this purpose that it consequently now occurs in Western Australia (where it is considered to be a serious invasive species) and from South Australia through to southern Queensland.
Coast Tea Tree can grow as a shrub to small tree to around 5 metres high. It flowers from late winter through to mid spring, and flowering is often heavy with the bushes being covered in the white flowers which are attractive to insects.
The name Tea Tree is commonly applied to other Leptospermum species, as a Leptospermum scoparium was used by Cook and his men as a tea substitute in New Zealand before arriving in Australia, and the name has stuck to the genus. The name is also applied to some smaller-leaved Melaleuca species as both these and other Leptospermum species have been used as tea substitutes by early European settlers. Tea Tree Oil is actually derived from Melaleuca alternifolia.
Where can the Coast Tea Tree be seen in the Parklands?
In the Parklands, Coast Tea Tree is associated the endangered ESBS remnants such as the southern sand-dunes above Kensington Pond, the regenerating Bird Sanctuary and the York Road remnant where it is common. Scattered plants also occur on the slopes of Queens Park.