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Melaleuca bracteata (Family Myrtaceae)

Black Ti-tree, River Ti-tree, Black Tea-tree


This is one of the most widely distributed species of Melaleuca in Australia. The main distribution is in eastern Australia from the central slopes of north-eastern New South Wales to Cape York, Queensland. There are separate occurrences in western Queensland, central Australia, and the Pilbara and Kimberley areas of Western Australia. The latitudinal range is 16-30o S and it is mainly found from 50-550 m above sea level. (NT, QLD, NSW, SA, WA)


Typically a relatively slow-growing, large shrub or small bushy tree 5-10 m tall. In very favourable situations in eastern Queensland it may grow to 20 m but in the arid zone it may be only a bush 2-3 m high. The bark is dark grey, hard and deeply fissured (split). Branchlets and leaves are often hairy. The leaves are 3-12 mm long and very narrow. The white flowers occur on a terminal spike, 5-15 mm long, with its stem growing out into a leafy shoot. The fruit is cup-shaped and 2-3 mm long. The times of flowering times and setting of fruit vary considerably throughout its extensive range. There are about 10 million viable seeds per kilogram.

Ecology/Way of Life:

It occurs in warm humid, warm sub-humid, hot semi-arid and warm arid climatic zones. Light frosts are experienced in many parts of the range and in some areas heavy frosts occur on 1-12 days a year. The mean annual rainfall is in the range 250-1150 mm with a summer maximum except in arid zones where the incidence of rainfall may be extremely variable. It is found in rugged to undulating and moderately hilly country frequently growing along watercourses and around waterholes especially in arid areas. The soils are rather heavy clays and fine alluvials and have a wide range of fertility. It tolerates sites with high pH and salinity. This species occurs in the understorey of eucalypts open-forest or woodland but it is often the dominant species in thickets or narrow belts among other vegetation types.

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

Its wood is close-grained, heavy, hard and durable and could be useful for posts and poles. The leaves contain essential oils but they are not yet used commercially. It is an excellent ornamental, a good shelter tree and has potential for erosion control on stream banks. Although it produces large amounts of pollen it is of minor importance for honey production due to poor flavour and low density. The free-seeding and root suckering habit of this species combined with its tolerance of a wide range of soil conditions make it a potential weed.

Other Comments:

Melaleuca bracteata was named in 1858 by Ferdinand J.H. von Mueller, Government Botanist of Victoria. The genus name comes from the Greek melas = black, and leukos = white; its origin is obscure, but may refer to the black trunk and white branches of some species; the species name is from the Latin bractea = bract, referring to the conspicuous bracts, or leaf-like structures of the flower.

Further Reading:

Beadle, N.C.W. 1981. The vegetation of Australia. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 690p.

Brophy, J.J., Boland,D.J. and Lassak, E.V. 1989. Leaf essential oils of Melaleuca and Leptospermum species from tropical Australia. In: Boland, D.J. (ed.) Trees for the tropics, 193-203. ACIAR Monograph no 10. Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, Canberra.

Doran, J.C. and Turnbull, J.W. (eds.) 1997. Australian trees and shrubs; species for land rehabilitation and farm planting in the tropics. ACIAR Monograph no. 24. Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, Canberra. 384p.

Topics: Ornamental Salt-tolerance Soils Climatic zones Vegetation types Aromatic oils Germination


Text & map from Australian Trees and Shrubs, courtesy Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research; text edited by J. Turnbull; photo courtesy S. Searle.

Sponsored by:

Suzette Searle/ACIAR


Distribution Map

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