Scientific Name: Leptospermum spp.
Common Name: Tea Tree, Manuka
Plant Type: Evergreen shrub
Environment: Well-drained, fertile, acid soil. Does best where night temperatures are cool and can tolerate full sun and dry conditions near the coast, needs summer water inland
Bloom: Casual, often showy flowers year round. L. scoparium 'Helene Strybing' sports single, slightly larger, deep pink blooms
Uses: Useful landscape structure plants, fragrant foliage. Can be used for tea, but is not very palatable. Flowers are good bee forage and the resulting honey has antibacterial properties. Common "tea tree oil" is derived from another plant, Melaleuca
Leptospermum Spp. is located in the
Australia Garden (60A, 60B),
New Zealand Garden (66A, 66B) and the
Western Australia Garden (47).
Leptospermum scoparium"Helene Strybing" can be found around the fountain plaza (27H, 27I)
There are many old tea trees in Golden Gate Park and other parks in San Francisco. They were imported from Australia about one hundred years ago to stabilize the sand dunes. Many were planted under the pines and cypresses along Lincoln Way. Look closely and you will see the crawling, twisting trunks of Leptospermum laevigatum forming the understory.
New Zealand has its own species, L. scoparium, which stands erect with pink to deep rose five-petal flowers with multiple stamens. There are several varieties at SFBG: prostrate types (outside the Fragrance Garden) and taller trees on the axis leading from the fountain to the Zellerbach garden. One special highlight for SFBG are the L. scoparium 'Helene Strybing' growing around the fountain plaza. You can identify these by their noticeably bigger pink flowers.
Leptospermums have a long history of medicinal application starting with the Maori, who used them to treat a variety of ailments from colic to rheumatism. Captain Cook, the great explorer of the Pacific, named them “tea trees”, for he learned that a daily tea made from their leaves kept his sailors from succumbing to scurvy, enabling his ships to remain at sea for years. All tea trees have rich nectar that bees transform into a dark honey. Manuka honey is recognized for its unique antibacterial and antifungal properties and is used in hospitals in wound dressings.
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS:
Joanne Taylor and Kathy McNeil, Fred Bové