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Melaleuca dealbata (Family Myrtaceae)

Soapy Tea-tree, Swamp Teatree, Blue-leaved Paperbark, Blue Paperbark, Soapy Teatree, Cloudy Teatree


This melaleuca occurs in coastal areas of southern Papua New Guinea, Irian Jaya, Indonesia and northern Australia. In Australian it occurs from Cape York Peninsula as far south as Maryborough, in the northern part of the Northern Territory and northern Western Australia. Its overall latitudinal range is 7-26o S and its altitudinal range from near sea level to 550 m. (QLD, NT, WA)


A relatively slow-growing tree, 5-25 m tall with blue-grey foliage and hairy, pendulous branchlets. The bark is papery and layered. Adult leaves are densely hairy but become smooth and leathery with age. Leaves are 5-13 cm long and 1.5 -2.7 cm wide with 5-7 primary longitudinal veins. The small creamy white flowers are scented and borne on cylindrical spikes, 7-12 cm long. Flowering occurs over an extended period. The fruit is a hairy, cup-shaped capsule, 3-4 mm long. There are about 4.5 million viable seeds per kilogram.

Ecology/Way of Life:

Most of its distribution is in the warm to hot humid and sub-humid zones. The area is frost-free. The mean annual rainfall is mainly 1100-1750 mm with a summer maximum. This melaleuca occurs chiefly on wet sites along stream banks, on seasonally swampy ground and on the edges of coastal lagoons that may be brackish. Soils may be sandy on coastal dunes but this species is also found on sandy loams and clays. It is a component of coastal medium and low layered woodland and has a more restricted occurrence in tall open-forest of M. leucadendra. It tolerates salt spray and will coppice.

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

The wood is moderately heavy and very strong. Its main potential use is for posts and poles. The tree is very decorative and useful for amenity plantings, shelterbelts and soil stabilisation especially in coastal areas. It has been used for the restoration of bauxite mining sites in northern Australia and is an excellent source of nectar for honey production. Like many melaleucas it has the potential to become a weed.

Other Comments:

Melaleuca dealbata was named by the Queensland botanist, S.T.Blake, in 1968; the genus name is based on 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 dealbatus = whitened or whitewashed, referring to the pale stems and foliage.

Further Reading:

Blake, S.T. 1968. A revision of Melaleuca leucadendron and its allies (Myrtaceae). Contributions of the Queensland Herbarium 1: 1-114.

Boland, D.J., Brooker, M.I.H., Chippendale, G.M., Hall, N., Hyland, B.P.M., Kleinig, D.A., Johnston, R.D. and Turner, J.D. 1984. Forest trees of Australia. 4th ed. Nelson and CSIRO, Melbourne. 687p.

Brock, J. 2001. Native plants of northern Australia. Reed New Holland, Sydney.

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.

Hearne, D.A. 1975. Trees for Darwin and northern Australia. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra. 130p.

Topics: Climatic zones Soils Vegetation types Timber Salt-tolerance Honey Windbreak Germination Aboriginal resources Invasive species/Weeds


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

Sponsored by:

David Lea/ACIAR


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