The Lemon Myrtle is a tree that gives fragrance all year around. This Australian rain-forest species has lovely dark-green leaves which it carries from its top almost down to ground level.
The leaves hold the secret to the tree’s charm, being full of wonderfully fragrant citral oil, smelling of a mixture of lemon and lime. Indeed these trees are the source of the strongest and purest citral oil in the world. Brushing the leaves as you pass by releases the lovely fragrance, which is even more pronounced after rain. During World War II the leaves were used as flavouring for lemonade by a soft drink company, and whole stands of the species were harvested in south-eastern Queensland.
The plant is native to sub-tropical Queensland, but it will grow reasonably well in cooler areas. It grows to a height of between 6 – 8 metres and bears clusters of white flowers in autumn. The flowers are also fragrant. It needs to be grown in a warm sheltered spot, but tolerates full sun or part shade. Although it likes to be kept well watered, it does prefer a well-drained soil. Being a rainforest species, the soil pH should be slightly acidic. It is relatively free of pests and diseases.
The leaves from the Lemon Myrtle can also be used in cooking. Treat them like bay leaves and put the whole leaf into your culinary masterpiece. You can find some Lemon Myrtle recipes here.
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