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Leptospermum spp. (lep-toh-SPER-mum)
Tea tree, New Zealand tea tree, Manuka
These flowers appear as clusters of small, double or single
blossoms on woody stems. They have short, soft-appearing but
prickly, needlelike leaves that grow as showy trees and shrubs.
Leptospermum colors are mostly hues of pink, red, white, orange
The flowers can last from three to 12 days, depending on the
Leptospermums are available mostly in the winter and spring
domestically, but they can be sourced year-round from world
markets, depending on the variety. Supplies will vary, so order
in advance from growers or wholesalers to ensure specific crops’
There are many naturally occurring varieties of Leptospermums.
Most commercial varieties descend from L. scoparium.
Leptospermums at 36 F to 40 F for up to two days dry or up to
five days in water. These flowers will last best if the
refrigerator has 80 percent to 90 percent humidity. Be sure
there is good air circulation, and leave the light on. Contrary
to popular belief, Leptospermums are not tropical flowers and do
enjoy cooler climates.
AIR CIRCULATION Blackening
can occur if the flowers are packed too tightly in storage or
during shipping. Air circulation is needed to prevent mildew and
ETHYLENE SENSITIVITY The
flowers are sensitive to ethylene gas. Be sure your products
have been treated with an anti-ethylene agent at the farm or
MEANING “Leptospermum” comes
from the Greek words “leptos” (slender) and “sperma” (seed),
references to the plant’s slim seeds. The species name
“scoparium” means “broomlike.” The common name “tea tree” comes
from early settlers’ practice of soaking the leaves of several
species in boiling water to make a tea substitute. Ships’ crews
drank a tea made from Leptospermum leaves to ward off scurvy
during long voyages.
FAMILY Leptospermums are
members of the Myrtaceae family. Well-known Leptospermum
relatives include Eucalyptus, Geraldton waxflower (Chamelaucium)
and Thryptomene (Victorian laceflower).
ORIGINS They are native to
Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand. There are about 86
species of Leptospermums.
HISTORY Leptospermums first
were recognized by Johann Reinhold Forster and his son Johann
Georg Adam Forster, who published the name L. scoparium in 1776.
DESIGN TIPS Smaller stems of
Leptospermums work well as filler material. Larger stems add
line to arrangements. Commonly used in contemporary and
Asian-style designs, Leptospermums contrast well with roses,
stocks, peonies and many other popular flowers. Some
Leptospermums will dry without shedding. They can be used in
dried flower arrangements, lasting for several years.
Purchase bunches that appear fresh and crisp. Watch for
blackened foliage or petals and for any signs of mold or mildew.
Look for fully colored buds and for 30 percent to 50 percent of
the flowers to be open.
Some information provided by:
The Chain of Life Network,
Australian National Botanic Gardens,
Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk Project,
Encyclopedia of Stanford Trees, Shrubs, and Vines,
Photos courtesy of the California Cut Flower Commission
You may reach “Cut Flower of the Month” writer Steven W.
Brown, AIFD, at
firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (415) 239-3140.
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