Tea tree

Tea trees
Scientific classification

A tea tree any plant of the genus Leptospermum (family Myrtaceae). The genus has about 86 species, distributed throughout Australia and extending to Malaysia and New Zealand.

The common name for Leptospermum derives from the practice of early Australian settlers of soaking the leaves of several species in boiling water to make a tea substitute rich in ascorbic acid.

Most Leptospermum species make desirable garden plants. They are a lovely shrubs or small trees, with flowers which resemble tiny wild roses and spiky little evergreen leaves, with flowers up to 3 cm in diameter. The plants are hardy to about -8 degrees Celsius (20 degrees Fahrenheit), and tolerate most soils and exposures with good drainage and full sun. Established plants are drought tolerant. They are often found as hedge plants on the west coast of the US, and some varieties are popular for cultivation as bonsai. Many cultivars exist.

Tea tree oil, which is occasionally used externally by herbalists, comes from Melaleuca alternifolia, a paperbark, not a Leptospermum.

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