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Illustration for "Plants of the Gouland Downs and
Perry Pass" ISSN 0375-0108

Original Pencil Drawing:
"Leptospermum"
NZ Tea-Tree.

Captain Cook, on his voyages around new Zealand, used a brew of what came to be known as the Tea-Tree to help protect his sailors from scurvy.

Laing and Blackwell in their "Plants of New Zealand" commented: "The whole plant, including leaves, flowers, fruit and young shoots, is highly aromatic, and the oil which it contains will perhaps in future be put to some useful purpose."  

This has proved prophetic, and today NZ Tea-Tree or Manuka Oil takes its place alongside the Australian Tea-Tree Oil (from a totally different genus of plant) as an ideal remedy for insect bites, fungal problems and general disinfection.

It has also been discovered that honey from the Manuka has an unusually high level of antibacterial activity and a system has been set up for measuring it.    Manuka honey can now be purchased with a guaranteed SPF factor.  

The scientist who pioneered this work commented: "It is notable to report that Manuka honey with an average level of activity, can be diluted to fifty-four times its volume of fluid yet still completely inhibit the growth of Staphylococcus aureus, a major wound-infecting bacterium and a species notorious for its development of resistance to antibiotics."

The Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) and its taller cousin the Kanuka (Leptospermum ericoides) belong to the Myrtle family. The flowers (usually white but may be rosy pink in the Manuka) are like a single rose in form, and in the Manuka they are borne very heavily, so a bush in full flower is a sight to see. The beauty of the flowers is such that many cultivars with pink and red flowers have been developed. The seed capsules are an attractive shape and very shiny when new.

Leptospermum  is the commonest native shrub in New Zealand and is often the first regrowth after the destruction of forest.



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