Melaleuca bracteata

Black Tea Tree

Family: Myrtaceae

Melaleuca bracteata grows to about 15 m tall with a wide canop spread, and with hard-fissured bark.

It has a massive natural range in Australia. In NSW, it grows on the north coast, northern tablelands, north-western slopes and just into the plains, north from about South-West Rocks. It extends into Queensland, covering a large area along the coast, tablelands inland and far west to just south of Cape York Peninsula. It grows in the north and south of Northern Territory and the far north of South Australia. It grows in two disjunct patches in the north of Western Australia.

It typically grows along creeklines and floodplains in dry sclerophyll woodland and mallee shrubland; at times creating its own ‘melaleuca-scrub’ habitat.

Melaleuca spp. can present with simple and alternate or opposite leaves. In this species, the leaves are alternate, dark green, oval to ovate, to 30 mm long and 3 mm wide, each with a pointy apex and and scattered along the branches.

In Melaleuca species, flowers are usually arranged in spikes or heads. Within the head or spike, the flowers are often in groups of two or three. Flowers have five sepals (sometimes fused into a ring of tissue) and five petals which are typically small and do not persist on the flower for long.
Like many other Myrtaceae genera, the flowers are conspicuously staminate with each flower having many stamens surrounding one carpel. The stamens are typically fused into five separate bundles (staminal claws) which each bundle sitting opposite a petal (a generally useful identifying feature for the genus to distinguish it from Callistemon). Melaleuca flowers do not have pedicels (sessile).

In this species, flowers are white and arranged in groups of 3, in spikes (which can also be clustered); each spike to about 3.5 cm long, carried on or near the ends of the branches. The flowering season extends from August to November; each flower has up to 125 stamens in five clusters.

The fruit is a capsule, each one mostly globe-shaped and to 3 mm in diameter, arranged in the same structure as the flowers.

In the garden

Melaleuca bracteata is usually found growing along watercourses and may dominate riparian vegetation. The Black Tea Tree will cope with dry, well drained situations as well as wet sites.

Melaleuca bracteata could be grown as a component of a native shrubbery or along the margins of dams and watercourses.

A number of cultivars are available including “Revolution Green” and Revolution Gold”. The names refer to the colour of the foliage. These have been very popular cultivars and have been planted in large numbers in public landscapes and as street trees etc.

They may be too large for an average suburban backyard but if room is provided, they can be nicely shaped, providing dense foliage and habitat values.


Propagate from seed and cuttings.

Other information

This species can likely regenerate from suckering and stem buds are fire. It can also regenerate form the seedbank.

The genus Melaleuca has been subject to recent taxonomic revision with early and recent botanists including Ferdinand von Mueller and Lyndley Craven (deceased in 2014) proposing to expand the genus to include all Callistemon spp. and others. Craven et al. (2014) published new species combinations which included the renaming of all Callistemon species to Melaleuca, based on evolutionary relationships and DNA evidence and other features. Currently, the NSW Herbarium advises that the Callistemon genus can still be used.

Melaleuca is a genus of about 220 species, occurring mostly in Australia, but also Malesia and New Guinea. Australia has about 215 species with 210 reported endemic, occurring in all states. NSW currently has 30 species.

Melaleuca – is derived from the Ancient Greek mélas (μέλας) meaning “dark” or “black” and leukós (λευκός) meaning “white”, apparently because one of the first specimens described had fire-blackened white bark.

bracteata – Latin referring to “bracts” – the modified leaf-like structures that sometimes surround or encase flowers. In this species they are prominent and noticeable.

This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild.

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Melaleuca bracteata profile page            https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Melaleuca~bracteata

Gardening with Angus – Melaleuca bracteata ‘Revolution Gold’ profile page https://www.gardeningwithangus.com.au/melaleuca-bracteata-revolution-gold-honey-myrtle/

Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants – Melaleuca bracteata profile page https://apps.lucidcentral.org/rainforest/text/entities/melaleuca_bracteata.htm

By Warren and Gloria Sheather. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke.