Plant notes: Lemon myrtle
Centre of diversity
- tropical, subtropical climates
- a tree of the NSW and Queensland rainforest.
- evergreen tree to to 20m in height in the wild
- commonly growing to around five metres in cultivation
- dense canopy
- slow growing
- two to three years to flowering of scented, small white blooms.
- leaves used as lemon flavouring for food
- leaves and flowers used in savory dishes and to make a food dressing
- made into a lemon flavoured tea
- used in Australian native foods industry
- reputed to repel insects
- attracts bees.
Food use notes:
- harder, older leaves used in food preparation
- add leaves toward end of cooking as cooking reduces flavour
- leaves can be dried and crushed
- oil can be distilled to scent perfume
- use in confectionery and in aromatherapy.
- culinary flavouring
- leaves and oil used in healing.
Uses in landscape design:
- consider size of mature specimen in design; size may be usuitable for smaller home and community gardens
- a tree for large spaces
- shade tree
- food source
- component of a windbreak
- insect/bee attractant
- incorporate in forest garden design
- to avoid shading of garden and species requiring full sun, in the southern hemisphere plant Backhousia on southern side of garden.
- leaves with their strong lemon scented oil.
- from seed and cuttings.
- does best in subtropical to warm temperate climates
- prefers full sun
- will grow in light shade
- prefers sheltered sites
- prefers slightly acidic and well-drained soils
- can be pruned
- can be grown in a large pot
- does not tolerate frost
- susceptible to myrtle rust fungal disease.
- leaves may be gleaned where it occurs in the wild or in public places
- practice the gleaners’ ethics of taking only what is needed and not damaging the plant or its ecosystem is followed.
Photos: Russ Grayson.
Plants in permaculture design
- using biological resources to fullfill the needs of people and of natural systems is one of permaculture’s design principles; Bill Mollison, one of the originators of the design system, described doing this as working with, not against, nature
- everything gardens, Bill wrote, his way of saying that living things alter their environments to suit their needs; in permaculture design, we select plant species that supply our needs while meeting the needs of natural systems.
When selecting species for use in design, consider:
- plant suitability for your climate
- how plants would benefit people and their environments
- the multiple roles for plants — food, windbreak, habitat, fuelwood, environmental modification, shade, wildlife habitat, psychological, aesthetic etc
- where to best locate the plant in a planting plan
- any cautions such as toxicity, irritation, potential for spread in ecosystems.
More plant notes in Permaculture Journal…
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