Updated/Fact-Chacked on August 5, 2020 by John
The Crimson Bottlebrush (Callistemon citrinus) was introduced to Britain by Joseph Banks in 1789 from Australia and since then this wonderful plant has become one of our most popular garden plants, not just for gardens, but for floral displays.
There are several things to note about the plant. First, the flower spikes of bottlebrushes form in spring and summer and are made up of a huge number of individual flowers. The pollen of the flower forms on the tip of a long coloured stalk called a filament. It is these filaments which give the flower spike its colour and distinctive ‘bottlebrush’ shape. The filaments are usually an intense glowing red, but sometimes the pollen also adds a bright yellow flush to the flower spikes.
Second weird point: each flower then produces a small woody fruit. These fruits contain hundreds of miniscule seeds and are held in clusters on the plant for many years. In some varieties the fruits will only release their seeds by being stimulated into opening by forest fire. In their natural environment the heat would cause the fruit to crack open and the seeds would then drop into the ash below.
Third odd point, the leaves are often coloured and, in some species, they are covered with fine, soft hairs. Nobody is sure why this is the case!
The glowing red Crimson Bottlebrush is wonderful, but other species worth growing include: Callistemon pallidus, the Lemon Bottlebrush, which is a tough, frost tolerant species which produces lemon-coloured flower spikes in summer and Callistemon salignus, the Willow Bottlebrush, which has attractive narrow foliage and white papery bark, which can be affected by the frost in cold climates. The flower-spikes are generally white or greenish but pink, red and mauve forms can be found.
John Green is a 46-year-old graphic designer living in Durham. John is RHS level 3 certified and owns an allotment in Durham.