Amomyrtus meli (Phil.) D. Legrand & Kausel

Common names

Luma Blanca, Meli

Article sources

New Trees

Tree to 20 m. Bark smooth, whitish, not strongly mottled. Branchlets smooth, greyish white or light reddish brown, obscurely pubescent to glabrous. Leaves evergreen, stiff, leathery and strongly aromatic, 2–5(–9) × 0.7–2.5(–3) cm, ovate, lanceolate or elliptic, upper surface dull or slightly lustrous, secondary veins indistinct, or approx. seven pairs faintly visible, margins entire, apex acute, often mucronate; petiole 0.2–0.4 cm long, yellowish brown. Flowers white; peduncles 0.4–2 cm long, glabrous or sparsely pubescent; calyx lobes triangular, ~0.1 cm long; petals subcircular, ~0.3–0.4 cm long; hypanthium conical, densely glandu lar; stamens ~40–80. Fruit black, subglobose, 1–1.5 cm diameter. Flowering October to December, fruiting January to May (Chile). Landrum & Salywon 2004. Distribution CHILE: Araucanía, Bío-Bío, Los Lagos. Habitat Wet temperate forest between 0 and 600 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 8. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration NT149.

‘Smelly meli’, the name coined by Martin Gardner for this tree, is both a catchy sobriquet and a mnemonic, as the foliage has a very distinctive strong fragrance, reminiscent of old-fashioned fruit-flavoured boiled sweets, that is certainly not unpleasant. The foliage looks like that of many myrtles, small and tidy in dark green when mature, but flushing dark red-bronze. The cream-coloured flowers likewise are unmistakeably those of any myrtle, and are borne profusely in late summer. In the wild it can form a tree up to 20 m tall, with a clean bole of shining pale bark (Gardner & Hechenleitner 2005), but in cultivation the largest plants are at present no more than erect shrubs of about 3 m tall. The only collection known was made on the joint Chilean–Edinburgh expedition (ICE 127) in 1996, from which plants are now well established in several Scottish and Irish gardens. Amomyrtus meli seems to thrive in mild, moist conditions but has not been widely tested. It has not been made available to commerce.

Cultivated plants of Amomyrtus meli have a long way to go to reach the magnificent size of this wild tree in Chile. Image M. Gardner.

Genus

Amomyrtus

Other species in the genus