Leptospermum scoparium – Mānuka or Tea Tree
Profusion of pink flowers covers the tree for weeks in late spring.
This is a large bush, growing up to 4M tall. It is an evergreen with dense branches covered by small, stiff leaves that have a spine at their tip. This species is often confused with the closely related species Kānuka, especially when plants are young. The easiest way to tell the difference is to feel their foliage; Mānuka is prickly (Mean) and Kānuka is soft (Kind). Varieties are available in burgundy, pink or white, and with single or double flowers.
L. scoparium is a New Zealand native, where it is found throughout the country. Despite 83 million years of separation L. scoparium is also native to SE Australia. It is a pioneer species, colonising newly cleared ground (eg after bush fires). It may be that its spread was promoted by the arrival of the Polynesian people, whose fire and forest-clearing brought about the conditions for Mānuka to flourish. Early explorers used the leaves to make a kind of tea drink. It is now cultivated in New Zealand for bees to produce the improbably expensive Mānuka honey.
Soil / Aspect:
This is a hardy and reliable plant. In the wild it flourishes from warm coastal areas, through to sub-alpine. In Tasman, we see it from the coast up to the tree-line on Mount Arthur. It prefers poor, acidic soil and plenty of sun. It is drought tolerant.
L. scoparium resents heavy pruning once it is established. So, prune to establish the shape you want whilst the plant is young. After that it is usually left to grow as it pleases.