Granite Honey Myrtle
Melaleuca elliptica, commonly known as the Granite Honey Myrtle, occurs in the southern part of Western Australia and ranges from Esperance in the east to the Stirling Ranges and then northward to Sharks Bay. It is usually found in full sun on outcropping granite.
In cultivation M. elliptica forms a medium to large, erect shrub 2-3 m high and 1.5-2 m broad, with intricate branching. The foliage is grey-green, with elliptical leaves 15 mm wide by 12 mm long. If grown in a frosty area, the leaves develop a purplish tint.
Flowering in spring, summer and autumn with a peak around December in Canberra, M. elliptica produces large, deep-red bottle-brush flowers to 8 cm long. As with many red-flowering plants, the flowers of M. elliptica are attractive to birds. The large flowers which are usually borne on old wood may be obscured by dense foliage but judicious pruning allows them to be displayed to advantage.
Melaleuca elliptica grows best in a fair- to well-drained site but is adaptable to poorly drained areas. Some plants at the Australian National Botanic Gardens, growing in heavy clay with moderately poor drainage, are only slightly smaller in stature than those growing on a steep, stony slope. Very wet areas should be avoided. If planted in a shady position or crowded by other plants a poor, straggly bush will result. An open sunny aspect is best.
Melaleuca elliptica can withstand salt winds in dry coastal areas and makes a good screen against salt spray. No pests or diseases have been reported at the Australian National Botanic Gardens.
Propagation is best from seed sown in spring, although cuttings taken in late summer are also successful.
Text by Stuart Donaldson, ANBG (1990)
Name meaning: Melaleuca elliptica:
Melaleuca - a Latinised compound from melan, black, and leuca, white (the reason for the name is obscure, but it is said to refer to the dark trunk, possibly burnt, and the white upper branches of the first Melaleuca named; another opinion contrasts the white bark with the dark foliage of some species);
elliptica - referring to the leaves having an elliptic shape.