Myrtaceae, The Myrtle Family

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The myrtle family are a dicotoledenous group with members found across the world, with some noteworthy Aussie varieties.

Description

They are known for shedding bark, which may or may not be peeling off the stems depending on the species and time of year. This can be normal for these plants as long as it is natural and not mechanical (physical) damage. You can prune unsightly dry bark off, just don’t speed the process up by peeling it off yourself as the tree knows what it’s doing and has its own pace.

Sydney blue gum  Eucalyptus saligna  is an example of a ribbon gum.    Image source

Sydney blue gum Eucalyptus saligna is an example of a ribbon gum. Image source

Many genera, such as Syzygium, Callistemon and Eucalyptus have fuzzy flowers due to prominent stamens.

There’s often a smell associated with each genus due to the essential oils this family create. Sometimes, scent can even help make an identification between different species within the same genus, depending on the species and how good your sense of smell is.

Flowers, Fruits & Leaves

Sepals: Usually 5 sepals.

Petals: Usually 5 petals.

Male: Stamens are numerous and generally the most conspicuous part of the flower. Colours can be vivid or dulled, with a wide variety of colours occurring naturally and through cultivation.

Female: 1 compound pistil with 2-5 carpels.

Fruit & Seeds: Can be a berry or pod with mu seeds.

Leaves: Evergreen, reticulate (branching veins), and usually entire (without lobes or teeth on the margin). Often an aroma is released when leaves are crushed.

Noteworthy Types

The Eucalyptus genus is quite possibly the most well-known type within the family.

Eucalyptus sp.  flower showing the many fuzzy stamen associated with the myrtle family.    Image source

Eucalyptus sp. flower showing the many fuzzy stamen associated with the myrtle family. Image source

Gumnuts and tiny seeds of  Eucalyptus obstans .    Image source

Gumnuts and tiny seeds of Eucalyptus obstans. Image source

Lilly pillies Syzygium spp. have flowers that look a lot like eucalyptus flowers, with their fluffy stamens dusting pollen about, however they can easily be told apart by scrunching up a fresh leaf and smelling it.

Syzyigium australe  flowers and fruits.    Image source

Syzyigium australe flowers and fruits. Image source

Cloves are a lilly pilly called Syzygium aromaticum.

Cloves  Syzigium aromaticum  fresh on the tree. The unopened buds are what is harvested as a spice.  Image source

Cloves Syzigium aromaticum fresh on the tree. The unopened buds are what is harvested as a spice. Image source

The Melaluca genus is home to the tea-trees, paperbarks and the honey myrtle, which is used to create melaluca honey (with a little help from bees, of course). Malelucas are so similar to bottle brushes (Callistemon spp.) that there is debate about them being re-categorised into a single genus.

The papery bark on a  Melaleuca quinquenervia .    Image source

The papery bark on a Melaleuca quinquenervia. Image source

Melaleuca quinquenervia  paperbark inflorescence.    Image source

Melaleuca quinquenervia paperbark inflorescence. Image source

Callistemon sp . seed pods may stay attached to the branch for several years as secondary growth occurs beneath them.    Image source

Callistemon sp. seed pods may stay attached to the branch for several years as secondary growth occurs beneath them. Image source

Conclusion

Birds and other wildlife tend to love this family of plants; if you want to attract native lorikeets to your yard then consider looking into planting some Aussie native Myrtaceae members.

If you haven’t already read my articles on plant identification and scientific names, I recommend reading those to get a broader picture of the topic. Alternatively, you can browse some of my other plant families, subfamilies and genera below.

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