Clarence shares his knowledge of one of the most useful plant families on the planet – the Myrtle Mob.
Whether on the coast or in the snow you will find members of the Myrtle Mob across Australia. Scientifically speaking they are the Family Myrtaceae, which includes the recognisable eucalypts, leptospermums, and melaleucas, and is made up of thousands of species.
Clarence is at the Wollongong Botanic Gardens where the River Red Gums are over 100 years old. As they get older, they create important habitat for native fauna. One the coolest things about eucalypts is how they protect themselves – if a limb breaks off, they form burls of scar tissue that jut out from the tree. If you cut a burl off and hollow it out, they make the perfect bowl or cup shape.
First Nations people have known about such uses of myrtles for thousands of years, be it Yidaki or didgeridoos, pieces of art, firesticks, and woomera or spear throwers.
The myrtle mob also have medicinal uses, with antibacterial compounds extracted from leaves, flowers, resins, and bark. The well-known Tea Trees or Paper Barks in the Melaleuca genus can have thick, firm bark that’s useful for shelters or those with thinner bark are great for bandages. The oil content in the foliage is a great antiseptic used by First Nations people for thousands of years and is now widely available commercially.
There are 87 species of leptospermum, with Australia home to 84 of those. Highly sought after for the medicinal honey extracted from the flowers, their stunning flower show make a terrific addition to any home garden. The oil of the Lemon-scented Tea Tree (Leptospermum petersonii) smells like citronella and can be used to repel mosquitoes. You can rub it straight on your skin – but patch test first in case it doesn’t agree with you!
One of the tastier groups are the syzygiums, or Lilly Pillies. They have edible berries and are used everywhere, from street trees to hedges and in pots. They’re a great plant to grow at home with many beautiful cultivars available. One of Clarence’s favourite edible myrtles is the Midyim Berry that produces cinnamon tasting berries.
The fragrant myrtles are great for part shady positions and can be grown in pots. Aniseed Myrtle and Lemon Myrtle are also handy additions to the first aid kit and for flavouring food. Try making a cuppa by breaking up lemon myrtle leaves to release the oils and popping them in boiling water – while you’re waiting for it to brew, inhale the steam to clear your sinuses!
So, get out there and meet the myrtle mob! There’s one to suit every need so why not invite one home to your place too.
RIVER RED GUM Eucalyptus camaldulensis
MIDYIM BERRY Austromyrtus dulcis
LEMON MYRTLE Backhousia citriodora
ANISEED MYRTLE Syzygium anisatum
Filmed on D’harawal Country
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