In family Myrtaceae. Common name – Manuka
This floriferous shrub is plentiful on Maatsuyker Island, and it is thought that its mass of white flowers during spring and summer may have been the inspiration for discoverer Abel Tasman to bestow the name “Maatsuyker” (meaning “measure of sugar” in Dutch) when he first encountered the group in December 1642. Most references suggest this is erroneous but it is a nice idea.
I measured the flowers at 16mm in diameter, and 5mm deep. There are 5 white petals with 5 much shorter sepals which are white with a pink tinge. The stamens are numerous, free, in a single row, with the filaments shorter than the petal. The style is simple, and looks like a lime-green lollipop on a bright red stalk. The woody fruit capsules are persistent, 8.5mm in diameter. The leaves are sessile, about 5mm long and 3mm wide, dense on the branches, elliptical-oblanceolate in shape, but rigid, concave, acute and pungent-pointed.
On the island, most trees grow no taller than about 2m high. Apart from the beautiful mass of white flowers, one of the most striking features of the shrub is the gnarled appearance of the flaky-barked trunks, particularly on the south-west facing slopes exposed to the prevailing winds.
When I first landed on the island, I decided to take a picture every day from the same spot, as a way to record weather, atmosphere changes. I took the “daily picture” from just outside the door of our home, Q2, facing south. The view shows the bedroom windows of Q2 on the left, the Needles in the distance, and a fine example of a tea-tree beside the steps from Q2 down to the main track.
Here is a photo of the ink drawing I did of this plant. This is my first attempt at stippling (using very small dots to create the tone) and I was very pleased with the result. Click on it to see an enlarged version. My friend and fellow artist-in-residence Marsha chose this piece to have as a reminder of our time on the island.
From my Maatsuyker Island diary entry for December 14:
“There are still many white tea-tree canopies but now also inches of new growth. When I walked today on the track between Q1 and Q2, beneath the arch of trees near the shed, the wind caused the white tea-tree petals to fall to the ground like snow.”