Plant Profiles Calytrix

The calytrix genus is endemic to Australia and has around 75 species. Most species are found in the southern areas of Western Australia but some are distributed throughout the continent. Calytrix belongs to the Myrtaceae family (myrtles). Calytrix bushes are commonly called fringe myrtles or starflowers. The evergreen shrubs are rather heath-like in appearance with fine, often needle-like leaves and small, 5 petalled flowers that are star-shaped. Although white flowers tinted with pink are most common, there are also yellow, pink, red and purple colours available. Characteristic of most species is the fine hair-like points of the sepals. The leaves give off a pungent odour when crushed due to the oil glands they contain.

Calytrix superba or superb star-flower grows to 90cm. It is endemic to a small area north of Perth, Western Australia. It occurs naturally in heath scrub and has thick oblong leaves to 12mm long. In summer, pink flowers 30mm in diameter appear on the ends of stalks.

Calytrix alpestris has the common names of Grampians fringe myrtle and snow myrtle. Despite the name it is not found in alpine regions but in the low, rugged Grampian Range and mallee country of western Victoria and nearby South Australia. The habit is graceful and open. The leaves are very small and may be linear or rounded. White to pale pink flowers are produced in spring.  Flowering may be prolific or sparse. The cultivar Wheeler’s Variety can be relied on to flower heavily and may be a better choice for a garden.

Calytrix aurea or golden fringe wattle has adapted well to cultivation. It is native to the extreme south of Western Australia. Flowering is variable but a heavy flowering form is available. The leaves are broad and the flowers have a faint fragrance. Bright yellow flowers are produced in spring and summer.

Calytrix tetragona or common fringe-myrtle (synonym C.sullivanii) is found through much of Australia although not in desert or tropical areas. It is a variable species and can grow to 150cm. It has narrow leaves and starry, open-petalled flowers in shades of white to pale pink. The flowers form dense heads at the stem tips. Flowering is mainly from August to November. Following the flowers, it produces decorative, dark red, fruiting calyces. It likes a well-drained situation in partial or full sun and will tolerate frost. Pruning after flowering will help keep the bush compact.

Calytrix depressa (synonym C.tenuifolia) is widely distributed in south-west Western Australia and is even found on semi-arid sandplains. Flower colour is extremely variable ranging from mauve to violet-purple with yellow to cream tones on the undersurfaces. The yellow stamens become a purple-red with age. This species likes a temperate climate with a fairly dry summer and a well-drained site. It is likely to be short-lived in humid areas.

If these plants are forced in their early growth, they tend to die at a young age. So keep young plants on the dry side in a low-nutrient soil. Trim lightly each year and they will last for many years. They prefer gritty soil and full sunlight.