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Botanical Name : Leptospermum scoparium
Species: L. scoparium
Common Name : “Tea Tree” is also shared with the related Melaleuca tree of Australia suggesting that both were used to make tea by Captain Cook.
Other Names: Manuka or Tea tree or just Leptospermum
Habitat : Native to New Zealand and southeast Australia. It is found throughout New Zealand but is particularly common on the drier east coasts of the North Island and the South Island, and in Australia in Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales. Manuka (from Maori ‘manuka’) is the name used in New Zealand, and ‘tea tree’ is a common name in Australia and to a lesser extent also in New Zealand. This name arose because Captain Cook used the leaves to make a ‘tea’ drink.
Description :It is a prolific scrub-type tree and is often one of the first species to regenerate on cleared land. It is typically a shrub growing to 2–5 m tall, but can grow into a moderately sized tree, up to 15 m or so in height. It is evergreen, with dense branching and small leaves 7–20 mm long and 2–6 mm broad, with a short spine tip. The flowers are white, occasionally pink, 8–15 mm (rarely up to 25 mm) diameter, with five petals.
This species is often confused with the closely related species Kanuka – the easiest way to tell the difference between the two species in the field is to feel their foliage – Manuka leaves are prickly while Kanuka leaves are soft. The wood is tough and hard, and was often used for tool handles. Manuka sawdust imparts a delicious flavour when used for smoking meats and fish.
It is hardy to zone 8 and is frost tender. It is in leaf all year, in flower from May to June. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.
The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid and neutral soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires dry or moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.
Edible Parts: Manna.
Edible Uses: Tea.
The fresh, pungent leaves are a fragrant and refreshing tea substitute . Of excellent quality, in taste trials this species has often received higher marks than the traditional China tea obtained from Camellia sinensis[K]. It is important to brew the leaves for considerably longer than normal teas to ensure the flavour is released into the water[K]. A sweet manna is sometimes exuded from the stems as a result of insect damage . Another report says that manna is reported to form on the leaves .
Dye; Hedge; Insecticide; Roofing; Wood.
This species can be grown as a hedge in the milder areas of Britain and is reasonably tolerant of maritime exposure. Plants should not be trimmed back into old wood, however, because they do not regenerate from such treatment. A yellow-green dye is obtained from the flowers, branches and leaves. A greenish-black dye is obtained from the flowers. Source of an insecticide (no further details). Wood – red, strong, elastic. Used for inlay work, cabinet making etc. The bark is used for roofing huts.
The flowers, when handled, possess an aromatic fragrance.
The leaves, when handled, possess an aromatic fragrance.
Succeed in almost any neutral or acid soil of good or reasonable quality, preferring a light sandy loam and full sun. Succeeds in dry soils. Prefers a position sheltered from hot or cold drying winds. We have found the plants to be fairly tolerant of maritime exposure[K]. The plant only succeeds outdoors in the milder areas of Britain. Hardy to about -10°c, succeeding outdoors in most of Southern Britain. A polymorphic species, many forms have been developed for their ornamental value. There are some dwarf varieties that grow very well in pots in cold greenhouses and conservatories. Resents root disturbance. Plants do not regenerate from old wood. The bruised leaves and the flowers are pleasantly aromatic. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus.
Seed – sow spring in a greenhouse and only just cover the seed. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant out in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts, and give some protection from the cold for their first winter or two outdoors. The seed remains viable for many years. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 5 – 8 cm with a heel, early August in a frame. Over-winter in the greenhouse for its first year. Good percentage. Cuttings of almost mature wood, 4 – 5 cm with a heel, October/November in a frame. Good percentage.
A dwarf form with small white flowers.
A dwarf form with small red flowers
Manuka products have high antibacterial potency for a limited spectrum of bacteria and are widely available in New Zealand. Similar properties led the Maori to use parts of the plant as natural medicine.
Kakariki parakeets (Cyanoramphus) use the leaves and bark of Manuka and Kanuka to rid themselves of parasites. Apart from ingesting the material, they also chew it, mix it with preen gland oil and apply it to their feathers.
Manuka honey, produced when honeybees gather the nectar from its flowers, is distinctively flavoured, darker and richer in taste than clover honey and has strong antibacterial and antifungal properties. The finest quality Manuka honey with the most potent antimicrobial properties is produced from hives placed in wild, uncultivated areas with abundant growth of Manuka bushes. However a very limited number of scientific studies have been performed to verify its efficacy.
The University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand has formed the Waikato Honey Research Unit to study the composition of honey and its antimicrobial activity. The Active Manuka Honey Association (AMHA) is the industry association that promotes and standardizes the production of Manuka honey for medical uses. They have created the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) standard which grades honey based on its anti-bacterial strength. In January 2008 Professor Thomas Henle, University of Dresden (Germany) identified methylglyoxal as the active compound in Manuka honey. This is now shown on products as MGO Manuka honey. E.g. MGO 100 represents 100 mg of methylglyoxal per kilogram.
Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider
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