Backhousia citriodora

Lemon Scented Myrtle

Backhousia - Lemon Scented Myrtle

Backhousia citriodora

One of the most commented on trees on my garden tours at Wharepuke is an attractive smaller growing tree from the coastal east coast of Australia, from Brisbane to Mackay, called Backhousia citriodora.

Backhousia is named after James Backhouse (1794 – 1869) a nurseryman, plant collector and Quaker missionary, citriodora means lemon – scented.

The oval to lance shaped leaves of the Backhousia are a fresh green and sometimes hairy underneath. When crushed they smell strongly of lemon which is due to the large amount of citral oil present.

The showy, creamy coloured flowers are produced in large clusters on long stems and are much favoured by bees and many other insects.

When young the plant can be frost tender so plant in a protected position such as near other trees if there is a danger of frost. It also prefers a reasonably well drained soil

The plant tends to be bushy with flowering occurring down to the ground, where, if branches touch, they can sometimes root  .

The leaves can be used fresh as a refreshing tea (one leaf per cup and allow to steep) and used in cooking as a substitute for lemon grass in many dishes. They can be also used to give a lemon flavour to milk dishes as it doesn’t curdle milk as lemons do. It gives a good flavour to icecream. The leaves can be dried and powdered and used as a condiment. When used in cooking only use a small quantity as it can be too dominant a flavour. Add in the last ten minutes or so, as longer heating will tend to drive off the lemon flavour. A small amount of crushed dried leaves in a biscuit mixture is delicious.

There are six other species and B. anisata gives a good aniseed flavour.