What it looks like…….
Walking amongst Lemon Myrtle (Backhousia citriodora) trees is a unique experience. The first thing that hits you is how wonderful they smell. The glorious lemon scent and sweet smell from the blossoms suffuse your senses. Surprisingly verdant for an Australian plant they have long oval, green-gold leaves that have a reddish tinge when young and a gorgeous small cream flower that blooms in clusters at the edges of the branches. The inedible fruit are small and nut-like with loads of seeds. The tree is native to the more sub-tropical regions of Queensland but with a little tender loving care will grow happily in Perth. Before you run out and buy one, be aware that they can grow big…..very big. In gardens they can be pruned and maintained to a height of 6m or less but if left untended and with decent conditions can get to 20m. Having plants in your yard that are useful is a fantastic feeling, and the Lemon Myrtle allows you to use it all year round which makes it the perfect Bushfood plant! Lemon Myrtle has wonderful antibiotic and anti-viral properties and can be used in topical applications.
How to grow it…….
Lemon Myrtle is a pretty resilient plant that likes well drained but fertile soils. While it is being established it needs quite a lot of water but is pretty tolerant after it gets to a couple of metres high. Unfortunately there is a very bad boy bug that infests these trees called Myrtle Rust. There is a ban on transporting live plants from east coast to west coast because of it and unfortunately there is no cure. We are very fortunate in W.A. to not have a large problem with this blight. The tree needs to be regularly pruned to keep it at a manageable size.