Leptospermum scoparium var. scoparium

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Species

Leptospermum scoparium var. scoparium

Etymology

Leptospermum: slender seed
scoparium: like a broom

Common Name(s)

Manuka, kahikatoa

Current Threat Status

2018 - At Risk - Declining

Previous Threat Status

2012 - Not Threatened
2009 - Not Threatened
2004 - Not Threatened

Authority

Leptospermum scoparium J.R.Forst. et G.Forst. var. scoparium

Family

Myrtaceae

Brief Description

Common small prickly shrub or small tree with flaky bark and more or less hairy new growth and bearing masses of oval pointed leaves and white or pinkish red-centred flowers. Leaves hard, 5-20mm long by 1-8mm wide, prickly to grasp. Flowers to 25mm wide. Fruit a dry 5-7mm wide capsule.

Flora Category

Vascular - Native

Synonyms

None - a myriad of varieties have been proposed none of which has been strictly synonymised within L. scoparium. Allan (1961) describes some of these, several may warrant further study.

Distribution

Indigenous to New Zealand and Australia. Most Australian forms of L. scoparium do not match the range seen in New Zealand. However, plants from Tasmania are very similar to, if not identical with some South Island forms, differing mainly by their wider leaf base, and longer, more pungent leaf apex. Manuka was also collected once from Rarotonga by Thomas Cheeseman in the 1800s. It has not been found there since, and is assumed to have been a failed introduction. Further study using DNA sequencing is underway to resolve the status of L. scoparium forms both here and in Australia.

Habitat

Abundant from coastal situations to low alpine habitats.

Features

Decumbent shrub, subshrub, shrub, or small tree up to 5 m in height and in decumbent forms 2-4 m across. Bark light grey to charcoal grey, peeling in long papery flakes, these curling with age. Wood red. Branches numerous erect, spreading or decumbent, arising from base, sometimes sprouting adventitious roots and/or layering on contact with soil. Young branches, young leaves and flower buds densely to sparingly clad in long silky, white hairs. Leaves leathery, pale to dark green, glabrescent to glabrous, linear-filiform, narrowly lanceolate, lanceolate, oblanceolate, to elliptic or obovate (5-)10-15(-20) x 1-2-5(-8) mm, invariably apex drawn out into a long stiff, pungent point, midrib usaully distinct sometimes obscure, leaf margin finely crenate, veins simple, scarcely branched. Flowers solitary in leaf axils, (8-)10-20(-25) mm diam. Receptacle dark red, crimson or pink. Petals white, sometimes flushed pink or dark red. Stamens numerous.

Similar Taxa

With the exception of L. scoparium var. incanum a broad circumscription of the the New Zealand forms of manuka (L. scoparium) has been adopted. In this sense, manuka could only be confused with kanuka (Kunzea ericoides sensu. lato) and Great Barrier Island kanuka (Kunzea sinclairii), from both of which it can be easily distinguished by the hard, persistent, circular, nut-like fruits, with non persistent sepals.

Flowering

Throughout the year

Main Flower Colour

White

Other Flower Colour

Red / Pink

Fruiting

The capsules are long persistent so invariably mature plants always possess at least some capsules.

Propagation Technique

Very easy from fresh seed. Seed must be sown fresh, even if left for a few weeks before sowing viability can drop, especially if seed is allowed to dry out. Difficult from cuttings.

Threats

Not threatened, though some stands are at risk from clearance for farmland or through felling for firewood.

Chromosome No.

2n = 22

Endemic Taxon

No

Endemic Genus

No

Endemic Family

No

Where To Buy

Commonly cultivated. However many garden forms are horticultural selections based on crosses between L. scoparium var. incanum and white or red-flowered L. scoparium var. scoparium. Some seem to represent natural variations, others may stem for deliberate crosses with Australian forms of L. scoparium and allied species. Recently a number of Australian Leptospermum have been introduced into New Zealand, and these have been deliberately crossed with manuka.

References and further reading

Gardner, R. 2002. Notes towards an excursion Flora .Manuka Leptospermum scoparium myrtaceae. Auckland Botanical Society Journal, 57: 147-149 

Thorsen, M. J.; Dickinson, K. J. M.; Seddon, P. J. 2009. Seed dispersal systems in the New Zealand flora. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 11: 285-309

This page last updated on 5 Jun 2015

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