Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Updates on Paperbark

Earlier this week I posted a bulletin about the flowers of the Melaleuca linariifolia.
I went to Canberra on Thursday, and noticed a large specimen of this species growing near my brother's house, in Curtin. Apparently, this tree would be 40 years old. Growing conditions in Canberra are much less suitable than in Robertson - both because of poor soil and also the cold.

Anyway, this is what a mature Paperbark looks like.
And here is the trunk, looking for all the world as if it is covered in paper.
Here is a dissected flower stem, leaving only a single flower.
It has 5 (compound) stamens and a central stigma (the female part of the flower). The flowers on my plant in Robertson had much longer "branched stamens" than this specimen.
This is the single stamen ("claw") which is apparently an amalgamation of numerous stamens, hence the various "dots" of pollen on the ends of the seemingly separate branched stamens.


mick said...

Seeing the photo of the mature tree I am wondering if that's what I used to call "summer paperbark". Unfortunately I never went close and examined the flowers in any detail. If this is the same tree it gives a good heavy flow of honey but it is a "jelly" honey and will not come out of the frames easily. You have to uncap the frames and spin off what will come off in the extractor - and that is only the top bit of honey - then put the frames back in the hives and the bees reconstitute it with whatever is flowering next time. So its double work! Extreme frustration!! I think I heard more recently that the honey has some of the medicinal properties that the New Zealand manuka honey has.

Denis Wilson said...

Well Mick, it is of course related to the plant that in Queensland is known for producing "Tea-Tree Oil" - which is Melaleuca alternifolia. The medicinal and antiseptic properties of that plant are well known. It is a relatively small grower, apparently.
So, I would not be surprised to find the honey of this plant is also medicinally beneficial.
Personally I know nothing about the honey.
There are at least 3 species of large-growing "Paperbarks" with white flowers.
This one (M. linariifolia); the "Prickly Paperbark" (M. styphelioides) which has sharp, pointed leaves; and the "Swamp Paperbark" (M. quinquenervia) which has longish, flat leaves, about 3 inches long and half an inch wide. That one is grown as a large street tree in Sydney, and possibly Brisbane.
Your plant memory might relate to any of these. The leaves are quite distinctive.
My plant has long
"lance-shaped" leaves, but soft, not oval (like M. quinquenervia), nor hard and spiky like M. styphelioides.
I Googled "Summer Paperbark Honey" but got no direct hits.

mick said...

Thanks Denis, very interesting. Wish I could remember more about the tree I knew.

Tyto Tony said...

You are right about Bris. Plenty M. quin. with its lovely scent when flowering in suburbs.

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Tony for the confirmation of Mel. quinquenervia being planted as a street tree in Brisbane. I had a vague memory of that, but was not sure.
Also the comment on the sweetly scented flowers.
That will bring in the insects and perhaps even the Fruit Bats (Flying Foxes).

Mosura said...

The flowers are quite different. The only tree form we get is Melaleuca ericifolia.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mosura
Yes, yet another "Swamp Paperbark" - your M. ericifolia.
It has simple, small white "bottlebrush" flowers it seems.
It seems from what I can find out, that the smaller-growing M. alternifolia - the one they harvest for oil, has similar "branched" stamens to my plant. Mostly they are like yours, similar to Callistemons, but white and not as large or long in stamens.
Apparently the Taxonomists are "revising" these two genera, and soon they may all be Callistemons or Melaleucas. There will be angry complaints from field naturalists, as the distinctions were thought to be clear, but DNA analysis has confused the issue, and several species had the same specific name (in each genus) so one or other will need to be re-named entirely.
But that's a discussion for another day.