In the Kakadu region, the appearance of flowers on the Turkey Bush around May signals the end of the season of Banggereng and the beginning of Yegge. The flowering is spectacular, masking the insignificant leaves and giving the plants an overall pink appearance until about August (although, in other parts of northern Australia, it flowers earlier and later in the year).
It grows in dense groups, attaining heights of 2-4m, and providing a vivid splash of colour in the woodlands and margins of grasslands in which it occurs.
It is found from the Gulf Country of Queensland, through the tropical Northern Territory to the Kimberley in Western Australia. Although fairly uniform in its characteristics throughout most of its range, the Kimberley plants are more variable in their floral structure and leaf arrangement which might indicate that these are different (and new) species of Calytrix.
It is thought that the Turkey Bush is so named because the Plains Turkey (Ardeotis australis) would seek refuge amongst its foliage when pursued by hunters. The Turkey Bush is also a favoured shade-plant of wallabies.
When the flower is developing (before the long purplish petals spread open), it is protected by a structure called the ‘calyx’. The calyx has long, stiff hairs that are almost as long as the petals. After the petals fall, the pink-red calyx remains. It was for this special calyx that the genus, Calytrix, was named by the French botanist, Jacques Labillardière, referring to the hairs (‘thrix’ in Greek) on the calyx. Calytrix is found only in Australia with most of its 70 or so species occurring in Western Australia. It belongs to the family Myrtaceae, which includes the eucalypts, bottlebrushes and paperbarks. Like other members of that family, the leaves of Calytrix exstipulata contains oil with therapeutic properties. Indigenous people use the plant for pain-relief. Commercial producers of the oil say that it enhances creativity.
Although C. exstipulata makes a great garden plant requiring little attention, the only species that is used widely in gardens is Calytrix tetragona, which occurs naturally in southern Australia, from Western Australia through to southern Queensland.