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Characteristics of Kunzea Granite Tree (Kunzea pulchella) in the Wild

Characteristics of Kunzea Granite Tree (Kunzea pulchella) in the Wild

Granite kunzea (Kunzea pulchella) is a flowering tree in the family Myrtaceae that is endemic to southwestern Western Australia.

The species was first formally described in 1839 by John Lindley, who gave it the name Salisia pulchella and published its description in a Sketch of the Vegetation of the Swan River Colony. In 1966, Alex George revised the name to Kunzea pulchella and published the change in The Western Australian Naturalist. The specific epithet (pulchella) is a shortening of the Latin word pulcher meaning “beautiful”, hence Kunzea pulchella meaning “little beautiful”.

Characteristics of Kunzea Granite Leaf

Kunzea pulchella Leaf
Source: Gerald Krygsman

The leaves are arranged alternately on petioles up to 1 mm long and have leaf blades that are usually 5-14 mm long, 2.5-5.5 mm wide, and egg-shaped to lance-shaped with a narrower tip towards the base. Both sides of the leaves are finely hairy.

Characteristics of Kunzea Granite Flower

Kunzea pulchella Flower
Source: Steve Dew

The flowers are arranged in clusters of 6 to 14 flowers, each flower on a 2-5 mm long stalk at the end of a branch that often continues to grow throughout the flowering period. There are egg-shaped, leaf-like bracts 4.5-6 mm long and smaller bracteoles at the base of the flower and fall off as the flower develops. The hypanthium is 4-5 mm long and is densely hairy on the outside. There are five hairy, pointed, triangular sepals, 2-3.5 mm long, remaining on ripe fruit. The five petals are dark red, almost round, and 3.5-5 mm long. There are more than 70 bright red stamens 10-17 mm long around each flower, the stamens are three or four times the length of the petals. Some forms of the plant have white to pale cream flowers. Flowering occurs from June to November.

The characteristics of this species that differentiate it from other Myrtaceae species are its red flowers, persistent sepals, and deciduous fruit. Its egg-shaped leaves and triangular sepals distinguish it from Kunzea baxteri which also has red flowers.

Characteristics of Kunzea Granite Fruit

Kunzea pulchella Fruit
Source: James Gaither

The fruit is a wide, urn-shaped capsule, 4-5 mm long with erect sepals.

Characteristics of Kunzea Granite Tree

Kunzea pulchella Tree
Source: Em Lamond

Granite kunzea is a shrub that usually grows between 0.5 and 3 meters tall, often with few side branches. This tree is best suited to climates with dry summers and wet winters.

Granite kunzea grows in sandy or clay soil, often near or on granite in open thickets. This species occurs on granite outcrops in Western Australia and is among the most common shrubs of this feature in the more arid wheatbelt and goldfields regions of the southwest. The preferred location is a narrow gap in the granite. This species may have a bonsai appearance as the sole aging inhabitant of a small flaw in a granite outcrop.

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