Australian Biological Resources Study

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Melaleuca quinquenervia (Family Myrtaceae)

Swamp Paperbark, Paper-barked Teatree, Broad-leaved Teatree, Paperbark, Five-veined Paperbark


This melaleuca occurs in eastern Australia, New Caledonia and New Guinea. In Australia it is found in coastal areas from near Sydney, New South Wales to northern Queensland. The latitudinal range is 8-34o S and the altitudinal occurrence is below 100 m except in New Caledonia where it is found up to 1000 m. (QLD, NSW)


A small to medium sized tree commonly 8-12 m tall but up to 25 m on favourable sites. Its stem form and crown characteristics are variable. The bark is thick, whitish, layered and papery. The leaves are dull green, stiff, narrowed at each end, 4-9 cm long by 20-35 mm wide usually with five prominent parallel veins. Flowers are usually white but can be shades of green or red and are in fluffy spikes 4-9 cm long and 25-35 mm wide. Flowering is usually from March to July. Each flower spike forms 30-70 densely packed, short, woody, cylindrical stalkless capsules. The minute seeds, about 2.5 million per kilogram, are produced when the trees are 3-4 years old and released from the fruits when the branches they are on die as a result of fire or other causes.

Ecology/Way of Life:

It is distributed in warm to hot, sub-humid to humid zones and is rarely exposed to frost. Mean annual rainfall is 900-1250 mm with a summer maximum. In Australia, it grows along streams, fringing tidal estuaries and fresh water swamps. The soils are often very wet, peaty gleys, sandy at the surface and clayey below. It tolerates poorly drained soils of very low fertility but only low levels of salinity. The best stands of this melaleuca occur as open-forest and woodland but it may grow as low woodland or tall shrubland. It frequently occurs in more or less pure stands.

Preferred Image

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

The wood is pink to reddish brown, hard, fine-textured and tough. It contains silica that quickly blunts saws and planes. It makes excellent firewood, mine timbers, fence posts, and flooring. The species is a good source of honey and medicinal oil. The bark has a variety of uses such as an additive to plant potting mixes and for insulation. The trees can be used for windbreaks, erosion control on degraded soils and as an ornamental. A red flowering form is popular for use in landscaping. This melaleuca seeds profusely and can become a weed especially where periodic fires provide a suitable seedbed. It has become a major weed in Florida.

Other Comments:

Melaleuca quinquenervia was named in 1958 by the Queensland botanist, S.T. Blake. 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 stems from the Latin quinque = five and nervis = nerved, referring to the usual number of longitudinal veins in the leaves.

Further Reading:

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.

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.


Salt-tolerance Climatic zones Soils Waterlogging Vegetation types Firewood Timber Honey Windbreak Agroforestry Germination Commercial use Aromatic oils 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

Images and Multi-media:  
Attached Image  
image/jpeg 30620 bytes Melaleuca quinquenervia

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