Plant of the Month Cuppa

Plant of the Month: Would you like a cuppa?

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When you’re out of tea (or coffee) you’ll pretty much use anything and that must have led to some interesting experimentation by the first colonists, I’m guessing many were tried with some very interesting results before settling on some more or less acceptable “tea” making species.

Tea Trees (and in this I’m including Callistemon, Melaleuca and Leptospermum) get their common names both from the way they stain water with their tannins and also their use in making tea with the Melaleucas and Callistemons having the added benefit of producing lots of nectar for sweetening the tea (though you’ll be wanting to strain out the stamens – don’t ask me how I know). 

Crimson Bottlebrush (Callistemon citrinus), one of the more common Callistemons and like most fresh new leaves can be torn up and seeped in hot water for an acceptable drink. 

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Lemon Scented Tea Tree (Leptospermum liversidgei) , growing in the coastal heathlands of the Lower Hunter this is one of my favourites,  a lovely lemony taste up there with the Lemon Myrtle and without the resiny aftertaste of the other Lemon Scented Tea Tree, (Leptospermum petersonii). Apparently also works well as a mosquito repellent

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Second image from: https://www.anbg.gov.au/leptospermum/leptospermum-liversidgei.html 

Sweet Sarsaparilla (Smilax glyciphylla), a climber found in moist coastal forests with distinctive reddish new growth, it is possibly a little sweet for some people’s taste but it can be used to make a “tea” but only a small amount is required (one fresh leaf should do it)

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Seeds of both Kurrajong (Brachychiton populneus) and Illawarra Flame Tree (Brachychiton acerifolius) can be roasted and ground and used as coffee (though taste more chocolatey), it’s not that strong but when you need a cuppa and nothing else is available it’s quite acceptable.