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Cut Flower
of the month

            
leptospermum

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BOTANICAL NAME

Leptospermum spp. (lep-toh-SPER-mum)

COMMON NAMES
Tea tree, New Zealand tea tree, Manuka

DESCRIPTION
These flowers appear as clusters of small, double or single blossoms on woody stems. They have short, soft-appearing but prickly, needlelike leaves that grow as showy trees and shrubs.

COLORS
Leptospermum colors are mostly hues of pink, red, white, orange and salmon.

VASE LIFE
The flowers can last from three to 12 days, depending on the species.

AVAILABILITY
Leptospermums are available mostly in the winter and spring domestically, but they can be sourced year-round from world markets, depending on the variety. Supplies will vary, so order in advance from growers or wholesalers to ensure specific crops’ availability.

VARIETIES
There are many naturally occurring varieties of Leptospermums. Most commercial varieties descend from L. scoparium.

VASE-LIFE EXTENDERS
REFRIGERATION Store Leptospermums at 36 F to 40 F for up to two days dry or up to five days in water. These flowers will last best if the refrigerator has 80 percent to 90 percent humidity. Be sure there is good air circulation, and leave the light on. Contrary to popular belief, Leptospermums are not tropical flowers and do enjoy cooler climates.
AIR CIRCULATION Blackening can occur if the flowers are packed too tightly in storage or during shipping. Air circulation is needed to prevent mildew and brown spots.
ETHYLENE SENSITIVITY The flowers are sensitive to ethylene gas. Be sure your products have been treated with an anti-ethylene agent at the farm or during transportation.

FUN FACTS
MEANING “Leptospermum” comes from the Greek words “leptos” (slender) and “sperma” (seed), references to the plant’s slim seeds. The species name “scoparium” means “broomlike.” The common name “tea tree” comes from early settlers’ practice of soaking the leaves of several species in boiling water to make a tea substitute. Ships’ crews drank a tea made from Leptospermum leaves to ward off scurvy during long voyages.
FAMILY Leptospermums are members of the Myrtaceae family. Well-known Leptospermum relatives include Eucalyptus, Geraldton waxflower (Chamelaucium) and Thryptomene (Victorian laceflower).
ORIGINS They are native to Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand. There are about 86 species of Leptospermums.
HISTORY Leptospermums first were recognized by Johann Reinhold Forster and his son Johann Georg Adam Forster, who published the name L. scoparium in 1776.

OF NOTE
DESIGN TIPS Smaller stems of Leptospermums work well as filler material. Larger stems add line to arrangements. Commonly used in contemporary and Asian-style designs, Leptospermums contrast well with roses, stocks, peonies and many other popular flowers. Some Leptospermums will dry without shedding. They can be used in dried flower arrangements, lasting for several years.

QUALITY CHECKLIST
Purchase bunches that appear fresh and crisp. Watch for blackened foliage or petals and for any signs of mold or mildew. Look for fully colored buds and for 30 percent to 50 percent of the flowers to be open.

Some information provided by:
The Chain of Life Network, www.chainoflifenetwork.org
Australian National Botanic Gardens, www.anbg.gov.au
Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk Project, www.hear.org/starr/hiplants/index.html
Encyclopedia of Stanford Trees, Shrubs, and Vines, http://trees.stanford.edu/ENCYC/LEPTOlaev.htm

Photos courtesy of the California Cut Flower Commission


You may reach “Cut Flower of the Month” writer Steven W. Brown, AIFD, at sbfloral@aol.com or by phone at (415) 239-3140.


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