T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Leptospermum scoparium (Manuka)

Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Myrtales
Family: Myrtaceae
Genus: Leptospermum
Species: L.scoparium
Binomial name: Leptospermum scoparium
Synonym: Kunzea scoparium
Common name: New Zealand Manuka , Tea Tree (This name arose because Captain Cook used the leaves to make a 'tea' drink)

Manuka is a perennial scrub species native to New Zealand and found throughout the country in a wide range of locations, growing rapidly up 4m tall and is probably our most troublesome native scrub species because of regrowth on cleared land. 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. The oils extracted from the crushed foliage of manuka contain an antibiotic agent called leptospermone which is claimed to have many medicinal properties. 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.

 

The difference between Kanuka and Manuka
You can identify the plants by feel: Manuka foliage is prickly to the touch, Kanuka is softer.

Kanuka is the larger tree, growing up to 15 m.
Its foliage is softer to the touch than Manuka. 
The kanuka flowers later than manuka, usually in December, with the flowers emerging in bunches or groups. 
The seed capsules are smaller than those of manuka.

Manuka is a smaller than kanuka, reaching around 4 m high. 
It has prickly foliage and a pungent scent. (see photos) 
Manuka flowers in spring around October 
Manuka flowers stamens are shorter than the petals
The seed capsules are larger than those of Kanuka.

White star-shaped Manuka flowers are borne prolifically for many months from spring - bees love them!



 
Early flower with green centre


A late flower red centre. Manuka flowers stamens are shorter than the petals. Kanuka stamens are longer than the petals.


Underneath the flower showing the receptactle.


A developing seed capsule, The petals have just dropped off.


Seed capsules.


A seed capsule

Manuka leaves
 
Underside of leaf
 
Adult trunk