This small, densely foliaged rainforest tree makes an excellent screening or specimen plant. It has opposite, mid-green leaves, 5-10cm long, which have a wonderful lemon fragrance when crushed or even brushed against. In spring the tree is massed with heads of white flowers with numerous fluffy stamens.
In nature it is found in the coastal rainforests of Queensland, from the border north to Mackay. It will grow in sun or shade and may be a little slow in its early stages.
The superb lemon-scented leaves, the flowers and the seeds can be used in many ways in cooking, and may be fresh or dried. They can be used to flavour tea, cordial, sauces, desserts, cakes and biscuits and are excellent with fish dishes.
The best method of drying Lemon Myrtle leaves is to hang bunches of them in an airy position, perhaps in the kitchen, where their fragrance can be enjoyed as they dry. I hang mine on the clothes line under the house, where there is good air circulation and a semi-dark position. They should not be exposed to sunlight. Once they are fully dry they can be stored in an airtight container.
The dried leaves are a useful ingredient in pot pourri. An essential oil, citral, provides the lemon perfume. Commercial extraction of this essential oil would give us another product to complement the popular Tea Tree and Eucalyptus oils.